Our Precious Breath:Q&A with Caroline Wright
Interview by Kasia Mroczkowska | Images by Rosie Powell
Caroline Wright is visual and performance artist based in the UK. She has made work for cities and rural spaces; for galleries, theatres, and churches; and on desolate uninhabited islands. Caroline’s live work has been performed to audiences of 100 people and to one person at a time. Her performance Out Of Water was selected for the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad Festival.
Here Caroline discusses her creative process, the importance of breath, and what we can expect from The Breath Control Project – an interactive installation and choral performance at The Coronet Theatre from 29 May – 1 Jun 2019.
Where does your interest in breath as a subject matter come from?
I have always been interested in communication and speech, and spending time several years ago in a speech therapy department as artist in residence gave me an understanding of the importance of breath to the way we can communicate with the world. There is an unseen rhythm to all our lives, as breathing punctuates the air around us exchanging oxygen for carbon dioxide. We live by this metronome, often being unaware of its existence until we are affected by situations such as illness, atypical circumstances or environmental contexts.
Could you describe your creative process of working on The Breath Control Project?
The project encompasses different artworks made over several years. These have been informed through research with scientists, medical professionals, those living with a breathing condition, and those for whom conscious breathing supports what they do, for example sportspeople, yoga practitioners, mothers preparing for childbirth, etc.
From this, ideas were sparked in different forms – drawings that explored the visual impression we have of our lungs, actions that showed the fragility of breathing and the rhythm we live our lives to, audio pieces that demonstrate the lung capacity we are able to transfer into song. Several ways of visualising and exploring breath through actions, music, and objects come together to form the performance Osmosis. This piece does not work to a narrative with a beginning, middle and end, more it is a series of vignettes and proposals that ask us to think deeply about our own breath in different ways.
Could you tell us a bit more about ‘The Breath Choir’ and what the whole process of its formation was like?
The Breath Choir is formed from members of the London public who were interested in the project and wanted to find out more and participate. Their experiences of breath have permeated into the work, and in rehearsals we have worked collaboratively some of the elements. They bring a richness to the work and illustrate more than anything what it is to be living today, to be human.
Your daughter Laura Wright, acclaimed mezzo-soprano, is also involved in The Breath Control Project. How did you end up working together and how much influence did she have on shaping this project?
When Laura and her brothers were young we would always sing in the car on the way to school or in the house, it was a part of family life. Later, Laura and I worked together more formally on a piece performed in Ely Cathedral and over time started to form creative ideas around topics that interested us both. Laura performed and was Musical Director for Out of Water, a performance that takes place at dawn on a beach (co-created with artist Helen Paris) and it was a natural process for us to work together on the live elements of the Breath Control Project.
What do you think audiences can expect from seeing The Breath Control Project?
They should expect an experience that reveals the beauty of the human voice, they may be reminded how precious our breath is and witness the poignancy of what it means to be alive and to be human.
The Breath Control Project runs from 29 May – 01 Jun 2019