Breathless is an interactive experience inspired by Fragonard’s Swing. It combines elements of voyeurism, abandonment and breath control to power a ride. Breathless features a motorised swing controlled by breathing data collected from specially developed WiFi gas mask respirators. Audience members progress through the roles of Spectator, Rider, and Controller. They may be forced to watch the pleasure of a lover being manipulated by a stranger’s breathing – heard publicly amplified – or face the awkwardness of controlling a stranger themselves.
WiFi respirators are based on NATO Gas Mask filters. They use microprocessors to monitor the breathing flow rates of multiple subjects and broadcast to a central computer. The swing is powered by a motor and pulley system. The motor is controlled using an encoder and power management unit linked to the central computer. Motor position is linked to the volume of air moving through a chosen respirator. If breathing frequency is in harmony with the swing, then swing height increases.
Breathless is a first prototype. It was originally conceived as an installation for Alton Towers’ formal gardens. It drew from stories of army training and gas mask drills conducted at the park during the Second World War.
These stories collided with previous work using swings and adaptive rides, and a fascination with the simple relationships portrayed by Fragonard. See early development videos showing gas mask and swing development. Breathless is produced in collaboration with Horizon and supported by Arts Council England.