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February 17, 2022

Breath symbolizes life but can also be the vector of deadly disease: it is a political symbol that connects multiple systems of violence under one supreme violation: it can be a destructive earthly exhalation, or a constructive tool for analysis and expression. In the current predicament, these multiplicities of meaning reflect the way one crisis flows into another, just as breath travels from mouth to throat to lungs, or from one person to the other. Some of the questions we will pose in this Salon are: What does breath signify? Do we treat breathing as a right or a privilege? In what ways has breath been re-centered in the minds? How and when does breathing become dangerous? In what way is breath politicized? How will we adapt–our buildings, the cities, the lifestyles, the environment–to preserve the ability to breathe?

The evening will commence with a brief introduction by Senior Curator and Director of R&D Paola Antonelli, followed by equally brief presentations by – here in alphabetical order:

Ekene Ijeoma: artist and director of the Poetic Justice Group at the MIT Media Lab. Through his practice, he researches intersectional issues, such as racial and environmental justice, and develops artworks that critique their realities and propose alternatives. In 2021, his Breathing Pavilion in downtown Brooklyn created a space of reprieve during a time of hardship and loss.

Kate Marvel: climate scientist, researcher at both Columbia University and the NASA Goddard Institute of Space Studies, and author of the “Hot Planet” column for Scientific American. Her work focuses on climate modeling on a large scale to understand long-term climate change and the human impact on its prevention or acceleration.

Derecka Purnell: lawyer, writer, organizer, and author of Becoming Abolitionists: Police, Protests, and the Pursuit of Freedom. She works to end police and prison violence by providing legal assistance, research, and trainings in community-based organizations through an abolitionist framework.

Kevin Slavin: entrepreneur integrating digital media, technology, and design. He currently serves as Creative Director and CMO at Poppy, where he studies the composition and interaction of indoor air, a topic on which little data exists. Kevin was also the founding Chief Science and Technology Officer for The Shed.

Nanfu Wang: documentary filmmaker examining the impact of authoritarian governance, corruption, and lack of accountability on the lives of individuals and the well-being of communities. Her most recent film, In the Same Breath, centered around the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic in China and premiered at MoMA in 2021.

The presentations will be accompanied by the screening of a series of short videos cut specifically for Salon 37.

MoMA Research & Development provides information and critical tools to identify and explore new directions and opportunities for MoMA and the broader museum field. Learn more: momarnd.moma.org/salons/.

MoMA R&D is made possible by Allianz.

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The comments and opinions expressed in this video are those of the speakers alone, and do not represent the views of The Museum of Modern Art, its personnel, or any artist.

Image: “Man, Controller of the Universe" by Diego Rivera

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