Breathing Space

Kaitlyn Fong (2021)

Breathing Space is a video artwork featuring a garden of four blooming paper cut flowers. The work depicts a surreal virtual space and acknowledges the act of living within the context of the COVID pandemic from 2020 to 2021. Kaitlyn Fong, the creator of Breathing Space and an undergraduate in the CMU School of Art, writes:

“The project was made in response to the challenge of remaining present physically while we lived our lives virtually. The title, Breathing Space, is about reflectance, the physical act of breathing, and about acknowledging the confusion and anxiety of the past year. Overall Breathing Space is a project whose process and product are one of reflectance and melancholy acceptance.

“Breathing Space addresses the challenge of remaining present in the physical world while we live in a virtual space. The final piece is wall garden of four blooming flowers that mirrors my own physical breathing. Each flower features a paper cut story displaying different events that I have experience, observed, or struggled with during the past year of COVID. The act of breathing in opens the flowers displaying an overwhelming number of papers cut scene. This saturation of images emphasizes the anxiety when dealing with these selected four events simultaneously. The action of concealing and revealing of stories not only alludes to the disconnected feeling of living in a virtual environment but also references the processing and consuming the various events with each breath. The paper cut narratives themselves are mixture of personal, political, and mundane events from the year 2020 to 2021. Breathing in engulfs the paper cuttings and consumes them, this mirrors the act of intaking information and processing it. Breathing out releases the imagery and demonstrates an enlightenment and sharing of knowledge.

“All of Breathing Space’s content was performed and displayed in the physical realm. The process of making this project from only paper and creating an entirely paper environment was an act of rebellion against virtual living. The creation of Breathing Space was meant to be a real and tangible one that rooted me within a physical space. This is highlighted by the handmade aspect of every individual leave, petal, and costume. The irony of the piece is that although the piece was made to remind myself of my physical world and self, ultimately my paper environments and performances were captured and uploaded to a virtual world to be shared and communicated. Nevertheless, I believe these fits well into theme of a fight and balance for living both virtually and physically during each day of the past year.

“Overall, this project has given me an outlet to process my virtual environment and the events around me. During remote living, consequences feel insignificant, and days feel detached from reality. This project has been a physical reminder for me to be present within my environment and to acknowledge the confusion and complexities surrounding events of 2020 to 2021.”

Breathing Space was developed with support from Microgrant #2021-032 from the Frank-Ratchye Fund for Art @ the Frontier.