‘Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing’. Arundhati Roy
As the Covid-19 virus swept into our lives in the past year we began to think of the collective breath of the UK population and how it has become a subject that now connects us all globally. Breathing is something so vital and yet so overlooked as an automatic process happening in the body without needing active thought. Breath is central to our physical health and our mental wellbeing; it is our constant rhythm and life force from our first breath to our last.
In these extraordinary times, when the world paused for breath in fear and uncertainty, our patterns and behaviours have come into focus. Slowly adjusting to new ways of living, the role of the arts, culture and creativity came to the fore with an ability to provide comfort, lift the spirits and create community at a time when we needed it most.
The Breath Project is a collaboration by Zanny Mellor, artist and designer, and Hannah Payne, Senior Director, Zuleika Gallery and Founder of The Art Five. The project was conceived with an aim to present exhibitions and projects to support artists, and people affected by the global pandemic. The launch exhibition Rhythm Adjust will raise funds for Frontline 19, an independent UK nationwide service delivering free, confidential psychological support to NHS and frontline workers who are, or have been working on the frontline of Covid-19. In the last 12 months they have supported over 50,000 counselling and debriefing sessions. The volunteers are all qualified counsellors, psychotherapists or psychologists who have experience in supporting people who have experienced trauma and emotional distress.
“I am so grateful for the support I have received, it has been indescribably valuable and I am recommending this to lots of friends and colleagues who have been struggling during and post the pandemic. I cannot thank you enough and will move forward with tools and knowledge that I am sure will continue to help me in a career in medicine.” (Frontline worker following receiving support from Frontline19)
Co-curated by Zanny and Hannah, Rhythm Adjust, is a non-profit exhibition presented online and hosted by The Auction Collective bringing together 24 international contemporary artists and 37 artworks that consider breath, from abstract gesture to representation and processes found in nature and the body.
Working in a range of media from painting, printmaking, analogue photography and textiles, some artists explore sequencing and repetitive movements, creating a sense of calm in their order, while others create works that have a vaporous quality, or tension, seeming to hover somewhere between presence and remembrance. Natural subjects remind us of our physicality and connection to the wider health of our ecosystems, and consider the importance of nature as a place for wellbeing, whether real or imagined.