The biotechnological installation Inspiration* is a breathing station that dispenses air enriched with the soil bacteria Mycobacterium vaccae, which has been found by scientists to improve mood, reduce anxiety, and increase mental capacity. However, the dose of the distributed air is not always guaranteed or evenly enriched by the respiratory masks. Inhalation and exhalation are intimate respiratory processes that bind humans to their environment – but what happens with the connection once it is technologically mediated and conditioned? The question is, who or what will dispense the dose? What will the dose contain and affect? Who will survive?
In the central bioreactor of Inspiration, the air is saturated with particles of Mycobacterium vaccae by disintegrating alginate capsules filled with bacteria and soil. The dose of the happiness bacteria is dispensed by blowing the air through the three chambers of the bioreactor. The air travels from the bottom up and carries the bacterial aerosols towards the respiratory masks for the visitors to inhale. Pressure cylinders and reanimation balloons push the happiness air through the masks in a calm, yet uneven rhythm. Behind the masks, we are not all equal, so how will we breathe?
The Mycobacterium vaccae blunts the emotions much in the same way as the serotonin-enhancing antidepressants, including that precious elation of romance that is necessary for the growth and perseverance of romantic love. Thus, Inspiration may also be experienced as a breathing station for relieving the obsessive clutch of romantic love and opening up human psychological capacity to other kinds of love, be it towards humans, non-humans, or mineral agents. It can be thought of as a tool to explore how to break the obsession with romantic love in order to feel new qualities of love and maybe make kin with other species and the environment.
Inspiration seeks to create a positive connection to the planet we inhabit, yet it is also very conscious of the fact that respiratory exchange is and will remain unevenly technologically mediated, controlled, and administered.
*The title of the artwork originates from the phase in the respiratory process termed “inspiration”. The word draws its meaning from inspirare [lat.]: to breath life into; to instill something in the heart or mind of someone.
Consultation, microbiology: Mirjan Švagelj, PhD
Glasswork: Pero Kolobarić, Zvonko Drobnič
Production: Projekt Atol Institute