bless our breath is a deck of playing cards that facilitate conversation, reflection, and creative process around breath, as both a theme and a practice. Working with breath as an intimate medium for connection with ourselves, our communities, our ancestors, and the futures of our worlds, this deck of cards guides card-players through a range of ideas, questions, and prompts. The project honors the symbolic and practical implications of breath within this cultural and political moment of uprising and rupture: the intersections of the movement for Black liberation, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the impacts of climate change resulting in mass wildfires and polluted air. While holding space for aggregated legacies of grief, the cards aim to build critically intimate, compassionate, honest, and resilient relationships with one’s self and others.
bless our breath is initiated and designed by Kimi Hanauer and organized in collaboration with Gas. bless our breath is based on ideas and phrases generated through an online workshop including artists, writers, academics and organizers alea adigweme, Gordon Hall, Jovonna Jones, Malcom Peacock, Ceci Moss, Kimi Hanauer, and Alice Yuan Zhang in the summer of 2020. Each deck of cards is accompanied by a newsprint poster that features writing and quotes from bless our breath contributors. Alice Yuan Zhang created augmented reality filters accessible via Instagram that animate the cards in order to extend one’s intentional breath into our digital presence. Select cards are also freely available for download as lock screens for phones and tablets, integrating the card’s messages into the everyday. All sales of the deck will support two mutual aid programs focused on wellness, social justice, and food: the Hip Hop Smoothie Shop in Los Angeles, CA and the Eastlake United for Justice & Shao Shan Farm free meal initiative in Oakland, CA.
The set of cards can be used as a facilitation medium in a multiplicity of experimental ways to be defined by card players. The deck is divided into two series of cards: Building Blocks and Ascending Blocks. Building Blocks invite card-players to reflect on specific themes such as “Interdependence”, “Reciprocity”, and “Grief” as they relate to the futures of our worlds. Building Blocks provide anchors for reflecting on collective futures and possibilities, as well as ancestors, histories, and challenges. Ascending Blocks open up a space and project a destination. They create a path to breathe life into, directly inviting conversation, collective processing, and community-minded practice. They include questions such as, “How do we feel the earth breathe?”, “We are already ancestors. What are we laying the groundwork for?”, and “What does liberation feel like?”.
alea adigweme is an anti-disciplinary cultural worker active in the mediums of creative writing, book arts, performance, community engagement, installation, video, and other visual media. Her creative and critical labors are undergirded by interests in archives, the politics of pleasure, the (hyper/in)visibility of Blackness, and the lived experiences and cultural work of femmes of perceivable African descent, all of which have influenced her extensive public-facing work as an interviewer, moderator, panelist, and educator. She is currently based in Tovaangar, the unceded Tongva lands commonly known as Los Angeles.
Gordon Hall is an artist based in New York who makes sculptures and performances. Hall has had solo presentations at the MIT List Visual Arts Center, The Portland Institute for Contemporary Art, The Renaissance Society, EMPAC, and Temple Contemporary, and has been in group exhibitions at The Whitney Museum of American Art, The Brooklyn Museum, The Hessel Museum, Art in General, White Columns, Socrates Sculpture Park, among many other venues. Hall’s writing and interviews have been published widely including in Art Journal, Artforum, Art in America, and Bomb, as well as in Walker Art Center’s Artist Op-Ed Series, What About Power? Inquiries Into Contemporary Sculpture (published by SculptureCenter), Documents of Contemporary Art: Queer (published by Whitechapel and MIT Press,), and Theorizing Visual Studies (Routledge). A volume of Hall’s collected essays, interviews, and performance scripts was published by Portland Institute for Contemporary Art in 2019. Gordon Hall was a 2019-2020 Provost Teaching Fellow in the Department of Sculpture at RISD and will be 2021 resident faculty at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture. Gordon Hall is represented by DOCUMENT.
Kimi Hanauerorganizes cultural projects and initiatives where new modes of collectivity, belonging, and degrees of autonomy can be developed and practiced. Kimi is the founder and collective member of Press Press, a publishing initiative that aims to shift and deepen the understanding of voices, identities, and narratives that have been suppressed or misrepresented by the mainstream. Kimi has edited publications including Sentiments: Expressions of Cultural Passage and If I Ruled the World, and recently initiated Toolkit for Cooperative, Collective, and Collaborative Cultural Work.
Jovonna Jonesis a PhD candidate in African & African American Studies at Harvard University, working in the fields of cultural history and aesthetics. Her dissertation examines Black women’s world-making and the politics of the built environment in mid-20th century Chicago, with emphasis on housing. Her dissertation research and writing has been supported by the Harvard-Mellon Urban Initiative at the Graduate School of Design, and the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics. Jovonna has served as a teaching fellow for courses in African American history, Black radical movement, and performance studies.
Malcolm Peacock aims to expand the spaces and possibilities for a Black person to exist. Working primarily in installation, he generates conversations that address the lived experiences of Black people—from historical characters and pop figures to his friends, family, and self. These dialogues, both figurative and literal, organically steer in different directions, encompassing accounts of queerness and adolescence, as much as gun violence and icons.
Alice Yuan Zhang is an immigrant who likes to make homes in AR filters, browsers, and communities. She furnishes them with dreams of post-capitalism, phone lines to interspecies neighbors, and tools for time travel, opening the door for playful ancestors of the future. Alice is a resident artist at CultureHub, co-founder of virtual care lab, and facilitator of Digital Matterealities and involved member at NAVEL. She studied at University of California, Berkeley and currently lives on Tongva, Kizh, and Chumash land (Los Angeles).