A Guide to Breathing

Marija Marković and Andres Villarreal


July 28th – August 7th

The project deals with the concept of crisis and the acute problems of climate change and air pollution as well as the bizarre contradictions and expressions surrounding this that have emerged in our current historical moment.

The climate crisis and the ongoing pandemic raise questions regarding the ownership of air as well as public space. Crises that develop slowly over time, whether environmental or social, historically seem to be able to avoid raising a sense of urgent need for action or to even be noticed at all. And even when we are intellectually aware of the problems, it seems our deepest societal and personal desires are more in line with the very system that created the problems and we are unable to break free from its confines. The exhibition seeks to explore the uneasy relationship between personal and collective responsibility and highlight the ways in which the current hegemonic system manages to sustain itself despite seemingly clear evidence of its destructiveness.

Our consumer society offers people a series of illusory solutions to choose from; a bottle of packed fresh air from the Alpine peaks or expensive air purifiers – shifting the problem of clean air to the private sphere. Commercials for these products also depict clean air as a luxury merchandise, suggesting that clean air should not be everyone’s guaranteed right. This supposed solution of “ethical consumption” helps us feel better but at the same time it anaesthetizes our political agency – obfuscating the fact that the problem is structural and that capitalism runs on a principle of endless accumulation and a maintained state of deficient resources and scarcity.

The increasing influence of algorithms and models for future predictions, result in a kind of compression of time itself and of a destabilization of the present – this in turn may lead to conformity and paradoxically forecloses both diversity and collectivity. What are the outliers (or failures) that defy these patterns and could they show a way out of the hegemonic neoliberal web we find ourselves trapped in?

The exhibition seeks to explore these absurd conditions and contradictions and to highlight the concept of failure vis a vis productivity in the neoliberal present. It seeks to trace the failures or breakouts that defy the constraints of the dominant system and suggests a juxtaposition of success with failure and healthy with abnormal as a possible way forward. These juxtapositions expose the absurdity and contradictory nature of our internalized neoliberal desires by turning them upside down.

Has a “social conscience” and personal climate responsibility become commodities to be sold to us rather than means for actual change? What are the connections between our sense of “stability” and our political consciousness? Or as Greta Thunberg put it “I want you to panic.”

Photo: Marija Marković, Andres Villarreal