Breath by Breath

Staged Photoworks, 2016

Digital print on archival paper | 36" x 72" - 60' X 120"

The work Breath by Breath allegorizes Air or Vayu, one of the principal constituent elements, according to the classical sources. Though air pollution levels in most urban areas have been a matter of serious concern for quite some time, the scientific data generated through the National Ambient Air Monitoring Network hardly helps to gauge the degradation in the quality of the air we breathe in. Galhotra therefore feels the need of her artistic intervention to creatively translate the scientific data and visually communicate this pathetic state of air quality.

While the current system of air quality information does not facilitate people’s participation in air quality improvement efforts, “a breath of fresh air” seems to be the distant memory of an endangered or even extinct experience.  Further, the ever-increasing consumerism has led to such an ominous state, that the lack of natural resources is being rapidly capitalized. Products like air-purifiers and cans of “breath of fresh air”, have commodified the most essential resources for sustenance of human life, stratifying the socio-economic structure. The work was produced in 2016-17 when the air pollution levels became so unbearable, that it made Galhotra question if the day was near when we would be buying air followed by water.

The performance was staged at those air monitoring sites from where scientific data were collected in the city and presented as a satire of the living situation in the new capital driven urbanity. The morbid aesthetics of the polluted industrial landscapes, dotted by the artist’s personal presence, force us to introspect on our actions. It makes us realize the extreme limits to which we have pushed nature, and urges us to responsibly owe up, before it is too late to amend.