Vibha Galhotra

Breath by Breath
staged photograph, digital print on archival paper / 18 x 36 in / 2016-17

The work BREATH BY BREATH allegorizes the element Air or Vayu. While air pollution levels in most urban areas have been a matter of serious concern, the data generated through the National Ambient Air Monitoring Network does not cater well to understanding the air quality a common person breathes.
The present system of air quality information, therefore, does not facilitate people's participation in air quality improvement efforts. In this light, the installation works on many levels incorporating a room constructed for the viewers to rejuvenate themselves by breathing in fresh oxygen through a mask or sitting under UV lights. Simultaneously, the room is also equipped with a television screening the performative staged photo-documentation of Galhotra collecting polluted air from different spots in the city of New Delhi. In addition, a LED screen next to the television, displays Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) data on pollution from the Board’s real time data collection archive. While the experience of “a breath of fresh air” reinvigorates the memory of what only seems to be an extinct forgotten thing, the subsequent juxtaposition of this former experience with visuals and data about our present air scenario aims to creates an urgency in the mind of the viewer. On another note, it calls to question the increasing consumerism which not only led us to such a state of the environment, but which further capitalizes on our lack by creating products like air purifiers and cans of a breath of fresh air, stratifying the socio-economic structure even further. The work resonates with Galhotra’s cry “Who owns the Earth”, forcing us to introspect the extremes to which we will go before we decide to take ownership of our actions.