Sarah Jane Pell - Interdepend, Undercurrent

Sarah Jane Pell - Interdepend, Undercurrent

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The performance of sharing of air is an act/action/activism no matter how you look at it. It is a voluntary and involuntary function that taunts life and death with each cyclic inhalation and exhalation. The body-politic of the breath is a really interesting departure in/of/as performance. It is neither a personal, private nor entirely public intercourse. Respiration and gas exchange - particularly within the body - is a tremendously intimate and essential performance that occupies most of our existence and traverses many jurisdictions. Imagine the amplification of this in extreme, confined environments.
Sarah Jane Pell, 2007

What does it mean to perform under pressure and with self-containment? The body is suction-sealed inside a 45cm transparent dome containing 16minutes of air. The body ‘members states and conditions from subspace towards an aqueous alterity manifested through a movement trajectory. The performance concludes when either a) the air depletes, b) poisoning occurs, c) 25 minutes passes. Emergency oxygen and a first aid attendant should be present. Post-dive recuperation and body monitoring is employed.

This performance series explores the possibility of using a land-based housing to act as a mini biosphere shelter. It asks what it means to perform under pressure and with self-containment. Can the encapsulated breath and body walk with water before an audience and without walking and without water? How do the states and conditions of Aquabatics reference wider human states and conditions? How does the action of performing Under Current on land prescribe the states and condition of Aquabatics or my own state and condition? Has the repeated ceremony of Under Current been a public rite of exploration of my context and audience and m/ other /me? Was it a discussion about the line of differentiation between bare life and saturation; presence and absence; state and exception; confinement and escape; semiotic and symbolic and the subject and object? Is ‘the dome' a place of abode? Is it a sanctuary to call home? Is Under Current the activism of a lost body roaming in search of something lost…?

This performance series has been developed with the support of a PICA R&D Grant 2003.

Martyn Coutts and Sarah Jane Pell

This performance research project comes from the desire to explore a bi/tri-way web of interdependence between technologies, bodies and energy beams to see if it is possible to depend upon each other mutually as part of a closed circuit life support system. Could two bodies interpenetrate and interdepend to constitute a perfect morphological and physiological unit? Could the cycle of gaseous exchange between our bodies sustain regular respiratory function with the assistance of a closed circuit biotech intervention? Could we achieve a state and condition of endosymbiosis that is self-sustaining? Could our respiration be eternal? Moreover, can this transmission of energies affect the space and the audience?

Sarah Jane Pell - Interdepend, Undercurrent

We united our biological function via a prototype two-person re-breather system. All inhalation and exhalation was concentrated within the design of the system. We configured the apparatus so that the inhalation of one person is expired and converted to become the source of inhalation for the other and so on in a loop of respiration. In essence, the external re-breather effectively performs the inverse function of a normal biological lung. The duo-re-breather does not function like an iron lung and does not replace the normal biological function of the bodies attached to the system; instead, it allows a closed circuit of interdependent respiration between two people and performs gaseous exchange to connect two perfectly healthy bodies.

The circuit included a long figure-of-eight piping system between the mouthpieces. It also has a filter of lime carbonate (called a scrubber) that converts the expired carbon dioxide into oxygen by absorbing the carbon into its chalky crystals. The configuration also had a bellow of standby oxygen and a direct source of 100% oxygen. We could purge the demand valve on the 100% oxygen source to flush through the system at any time. We wore the device with the aid of two harnesses, but for the most part, our clenched jaws secured it to our bodies.

The two-litre scrubber contained approx twelve hours of effective lime carbonate. When saturated the crystals turn bright purple, so we included a view port in the canister design to observe this. The 65lt cylinder of industrial grade[i] compressed O2 contained approximately 4 hours of air between two people on land. Given we were purging for 10- 30 sec intervals every 3-5 minutes, it would last much longer.

Sarah Jane Pell - Interdepend, Undercurrent

artist bio
Sarah Jane Pell is a human factors researcher, live artist and philosopher. Pell became a fully qualified commercial diver and founded the Aquabatics Research Team in 2002 to explore commercial diving and creative practices together in a unique union. Originally focused on making underwater performances, Pell's work now spans aqueous live art, digital media, installation, prototype pneumatic technologies, philosophies and experiments with advanced life support and living systems. Her work has been presented in Australia, Asia, UK, Europe, Scandinavia and recently in the USA. Highlights include the National Review of Live Art, Glasgow (2003), Biennale of Electronic Arts Perth (2004), ISEA The Baltic (2004), ARC Biennial Brisbane (2005) MAF Thailand (2005, 2006) Reykjavik Arts festival, Iceland (2006) and a retrospective of Aquabatics at the Western Australian Maritime Museum (2005). Pell completed a PhD at Edith Cowan University and attended the SSP at the International Space University, France (2006). Dr. Pell is currently an artist-researcher and Adjunct Lecturer, School of Anatomy & Human Biology, The University of Western Australia (2007-) home to SymbioticA: the art & science Laboratory.