Emily Parsons-Lord – TRANSCRIPT
If I asked you to picture the air, what do you imagine?s Most people think about either empty space or clear blue sky or sometimes trees dancing in the wind. And then I remember my high school chemistry teacher with really long socks at the blackboard, drawing diagrams of bubbles connected to other bubbles, and describing how they vibrate and collide in a kind of frantic soup.
But really, we tend not to think about the air that much at all. We notice it mostly when there’s some kind of unpleasant sensory intrusion upon it, like a terrible smell or something visible like smoke or mist. But it’s always there. It’s touching all of us right now. It’s even inside us.
Our air is immediate, vital and intimate. And yet, it’s so easily forgotten. So what is the air? It’s the combination of the invisible gases that envelop the Earth, attracted by the Earth’s gravitational pull. And even though I’m a visual artist, I’m interested in the invisibility of the air. I’m interested in how we imagine it, how we experience it and how we all have an innate understanding of its materiality through breathing.
All life on Earth changes the air through gas exchange, and we’re all doing it right now. Actually, why don’t we all right now together take one big, collective, deep breath in Ready? In (Inhales) And out (Exhales). That air that you just exhaled, you enriched a hundred times in carbon dioxide.
So roughly five liters of air per breath, 17 breaths per minute of the 525,600 minutes per year, comes to approximately 45 million liters of air, enriched 100 times in carbon dioxide, just for you. Now, that’s equivalent to about 18 Olympic-sized swimming pools. For me, “air” is plural. It’s simultaneously as small as our breathing and as big as the planet. And it’s kind of hard to picture.
Maybe it’s impossible, and maybe it doesn’t matter. So through my visual arts practice, I try to make air, not so much picture it, but to make it visceral and tactile and haptic. I try to expand this notion of the aesthetic, how things look, so that it can include things like how it feels on your skin and in your lungs, and how your voice sounds as it passes through it. I explore the weight, density and smell, but most importantly, I think a lot about the stories we attach to different kinds of air.