Out of Thin Air
Out of Thin Air was a public art installation in City Hall Park by artist Sari Carel, commissioned and produced by More Art. The project used techniques from music and sound art to amplify the experience of breath and breathlessness associated with issues of respiratory illness, air quality, and environmental injustice in New York City. Visitors experienced an immersive soundscape that created a rich sensory journey up to City Hall while addressing important issues relating to air quality and wellness. The recording was a rather unusual composition drawn from such sounds as rustles, crackles, beats, huffs, and delicate inhaling and exhaling, fading in and out of the sounds of the city.
The multi-channel soundscape was the culmination of a series of breathing and sound-recording workshops the artist held with New Yorkers living with asthma and various breathing conditions. During these free workshops, participants were introduced to the Alexander Technique by teacher Jessica Wolf, a Professor of Acting at Yale University. Central to Wolf’s work is the idea that the respiratory system is the balance wheel of the body. She guided attendees through principles and procedures that involve respiratory re-education to promote greater physical and emotional well-being. Through discussion and creative improvisation, participants collaborated on the recording of their breathing sounds. The workshops utilized a digital stethoscope designed by ThinkLabs as a recording instrument.
More Art partnered with grassroots environmental justice organizations throughout NYC, to share community-led research and planning to improve air quality in the region, and hosted a series of public programs. The symposium “Rethinking Illness: Art, Health, and The Environment” featured environmental activists, public health advocates, and artists, and examined how themes of time, endurance, exhaustion, and resilience play into artists’ work and how we can be mindful of illness and the environment.