Sylvia Eckermann and Gerald Nestler- Breathe my air


A Paradoxical Conversation Piece

At the core of the 3-channel-video installation are notions of communication and approach between China and the West.
The necessity and urgency for dialogue that we experienced on a daily basis when traveling through China was as much a source of inspiration as the frequent involuntary interruptions and ends of conversations due to a lack of knowledge that we shared with our Chinese friends.

Also on a more general level, not only verbal communication but a wider gap in cultural translation seems to affect our encounters. Thus, our interest is especially drawn to moments when a conversation halts not due to a simple lack of words but a conceptual shift in which a ‚void’ full af foreign signifiers seems to emerge. To our perception, these moments of short but intense silence are not at all blank. Rather, ‚invisible sculptures’ of non-communication emerge that expand exactely because of the lack of a comprehensive repertoire.

This non-communication as part of communication gives evidence to difference and holds a crucial position in the widening of the mutual horizons and the power to imagine and construct the Other. Here, in a collaborative effort we might be enabled to destill a sameness devoid of uniformity and conformity.

A paradoxical conversation piece

Based on concepts of progress, change, and utopia that the West and China have been sharing for the last 100 years, we started out into an audiovisual examination of our preconceptions, imaginations and visions of the cultural and societal other in a quest to find the human being within these invisible sculptures of voided translations and cultural shifts.

We invited artists, writers, theorists, philosphers, ... that have visited the „far end of the continent“ to participate in a series of interviews on their respective assessments and experiences as well as to share with us their notions on progress, change and utopia, and how they affect the world today.

We refer to this mutual engagement as a “paradoxical conversation”: The participants do not meet physically. They are interviewed and their statements become our artistic material. Their contributions are edited and become a work of art.

Our interpretations are grounded in socio-cultural environments. The conceptual framework for the recordings is based on Chinese as well as Western notions of art, nature and environment. Thereby the work becomes a platform that spans history, time and ideas of both cultures. Progress, change and utopia are examined for their past and future qualities in the respective cultures as well as for a common and present practice.

Phase I - Europe / Vienna
Thomas Feuerstein, artist, theorist
Brigitte Podgorschek, artist
Wolfgang Prinzgau, artist
Axel Stockburger, artist, game theorist
Cornelia Offergeld, art historian, curator
Michael Hoepfner, artist
Oliver Grau, media art historian, professor of image science
Wendy Coones, art historian
Oliver Irschitz, architect, designer, founder of Peyote
Wolf-Guenter Thiel, art historian, curator, co-editor of Fair Magazine
Jasmin Ladenhaufen, fashion artist, director of Boutique Gegenalltag
Karel Dudesek, artist

Phase II - China / Beijing
Cao Ke Fei, theatre maker, director
Li Zhenhua, curator, media artist
Yu Qiong, emerging documentary film maker
Xing Danwen, artist, photographer
Qiu Zhijie, artist
Miao Xiaochun, artist
Li Shi, curator
Renia Ho, artist, co-founder of Arrow Factory art space
Wong Wei, artist, co-founder of Arrow Factory art space
Pauline Yao, art historian, co-founder of Arrow Factory art space
Zhao Tingyang, philosopher
Tony Liang Fu, curator, art critic
Xi Chuan, poet, writer
Ou Ning, artist, editor, director of Shao Foundation, Beijing
Zhang Wei, gallerist, Vitamine Creative Space, Guangzhou / The Shop, Beijing

Breathe My Air further development

The 3-channel-video installation „Paradoxical Conversation Piece“ is part of an ongoing project that we plan to expand in 2010 in collaboration with producers ChART Contemporary ( and the curator Li Zhenhua (

Following, you find some further information:

The Pavilion of The Borrowed View

The ongoing exchange that will be extended in 2010 is set inside an urban pavilion. Traditional Chinese scholars well versed in philosophy and art, meditated in a landscape (natural “artscapes”) by inscribing poems from specific architectural structures, the Chinese landscape pavilions.

Here, the concept of borrowing the view – the Chinese characters for “pavilion” bear this meaning – comes into play. For centuries it has been a cultural method to incorporate a distant vista into the composition. A river, an ocean, fields, forests, large trees or a building have all served this purpose, but the most frequently borrowed scene is a distant mountain.

In Breathe My Air, we borrow the scenery of the urban sprawl that today makes up our cityscape where the ‘poems’ of a consumerist society are constantly engraved in plain view for everyone. We invite the public to literally inhale an “ambient air of a utopian formula” and engage in the exchange of a multi-facetted presence.

The Chinese interpretation of the pavilion is fused with a Western approach on art that refers to the development of the White Cube as part of modern exhibiting and later the Black Box as its supplement for moving images.

Our idea for the pavilion as an open structure from where we can project our ideas, utopias and emotions into the surroundings, or rest for introspection, corresponds to our adaptation of yet another showcase: in the Green Box (or Blue Box) we combine the qualities of the white cube and the black box with a participatory, transparent, and direct approach.

Although we seal the physical space to retain the air quality, we open the pavilion virtually and visually as a space in (or rather out of) which visitors may participate by projecting their own ideas and feelings on co-existence in one global environment that contains diverse lifestyles.

By building such a “Third Skin” and continue our recordings, we aim to build up a conversation of a multitude of individual voices and from there develop a vocabulary, a method to connect these seemingly invisible but vital aspects of our cultural and environmental economies. Breathe My Air addresses a common, powerful and imaginative approach to understand, develop and change our personal as well as environmental habitat and design our future common assets.

Air Bubbles
Multiple & Merchandise & Participatory Exchange

Produce, designed for multi-purpose use and value to satisfy both the collector and the public. Filled with the exact air composition as the air pavilion, the air bubbles are soft and transparent with a diameter of approximately 8 cm. They carry the inscription:
Breathe My Air
Made in China
These Air Bubbles are collectibles as well as disposables and „particibles.“
For the collector, they are artworks with proper longevity if treated with appropriate care.
When squeezed they release their content and you take a breath of air before you dispose of them and fulfill their consumerist design. The balls themselves become a kind of debris.
When squeezed and inhaled, the exchange of the utopian air formula is released into the world. The debris are relicts of a specific form and use value (moulded by squeezing) and thus once more unique collectibles as well as exchange products.