Thursday 30 June 2011

New metaphors for sustainability: the act of breathing

In the first in our series on New metaphors for sustainability, the artist Ansuman Biswas, whose work moves between music, dance, theatre, visual art and writing, chooses the act of breathing.

I can’t imagine something that sustains forever and the notion of an endpoint isn’t there in the idea of sustainability. We’re talking about something that’s eternal, and I don’t know anything that is eternal. I can’t imagine eternity.

The word itself, sustenir from the Latin, is to hold something up. It's as if there's some magical wish to hold up against gravity. The image I keep coming back to is the image of breath with its inherent balance, and the craziness of trying to breathe in forever. What if I could breathe in forever? What would happen if I just took in more and more and more oxygen, and just kept breathing? As if I wanted to keep growing, more and more - I would burst like a balloon. I would just die.

It's necessary also to let go, to recognise the limits of my ribcage, the limits of my diaphragm and my body to hold any more breath. To recognise at the level of my body where that limit is and to let go. And in letting go, in breathing out, I speak and I sing to the world, and make a contribution that is unique to this body.

That’s the important part of sustainability. What is sustained is the song, is the music. It’s not made just by me and can’t be made if I only grasp at it. It has to be let go of and given. It's that music, that note, which for me sustains.

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