Description by Filmoteka Muzeum
Holding on to Air 1 is the first in a series of Anna Płotnicka’s performances-for-camera devoted to the impossibility of seeing air. The cycle also comprises the works Holding on to Air 2, Visible/Invisible, Unfinished Film.
The artist’s engagement with this theme was inspired by a casual conversation between her mother Zenobia and her aunt Mania, during which the question “how are you doing?” elicited the paradoxical reply: “I’m holding on to air.” This expression turns air into a synonym of a lasting life support and, importantly, lends it a material dimension.
In Holding on to Air 1 Płotnicka attempts to present an “ontological proof” – visible with the “naked” eye – of the existence of air, and therefore to capture the moment when its presence makes itself manifest. To this end, the artist relies on breathing, which has a fundamental importance for life processes. She demonstrates through her bodily reactions that air is indispensable for our bodies to function properly.
Płotnicka immerses her head in a vessel filled with water, holds her breath and then grasps some air once again –multiple repetitions of that sequence reveal the artist’s increasingly fatigued body, hungry for missing oxygen. An important role in the demonstration of the process is played by the location of the camera underneath a glass table, which allows the viewer to see the artist’s face directly and to observe even the slightest physical processes that occur once her head goes in and out of water.
According to the phenomenological concept of the tool, “the objecthood” of air makes itself manifest at the moment of breakdown or lack – a malfunction of the literally transparent mechanism. The context of phenomenology is important for Płotnicka’s work as a philosophical tendency that opposes purely speculative thought (a noteworthy book for that matter is, for instance, The Forgetting of Air in Martin Heidegger by Luce Irigaray ) and turns to the experience of the body. The same aspect characterises Płotnicka’s performative practice, providing the reason why the artist has been situated in the sphere of “women’s art.”
In another work, Holding on to Air 2, Płotnicka draws attention to the rhythm of the process of breathing, which is also based on the inhale-exhale sequence present in this work.
camera: Czesław Chwiszczuk