Digital Breath: Video and Sound Art in the Age of Global Connectivity

February 6, 2021 - June 6, 2021

Morris Gallery

For this timely exhibition, guest curator and multimedia artist Brian C. O’Malley brings together the work of 7 artists with fresh and diverse perspectives exploring the theme of “breath” during the era of COVID with compelling video and sound art works.

In the words of Brian C. O’Malley

“As we approached the edge of 2020 with a hopeful but unsettling view of 2021, we wondered if it would be the year that we find a cure for COVID. Would this be the year of handshakes and hearty embraces, of being comfortable in the presence of others? Would 2021 be the year in which winter is allowed to be winter, social, political and ideological fires won’t rage, and borders are just lines in the earth? Would this be the year in which walls come down and we welcome our fellow comrades of all nationalities into our land or would the walls get bigger and stronger, dashing all possibilities of a new life in this nation? 

Will we be kept in our houses, our rooms, our mental cubicles, to speak and breathe only through the digital realm? You see the green light on your computer, so that means you are live. You ask, “Am I speaking and breathing right?” As I prepared materials for this exhibition I turned to the poetry of the late Mark Strand for guidance, in particular the poem, “Breath.” The last line of “Breath” reads: “that breath is what I send them when I send my love.” You labor to breathe through your mask, glasses fog, periphery obfuscated— should you insert an emoji here for protection, how do you express your love 6 feet apart? The line in the poem by Mark Strand reminds us to revisit the very breath we take as we join together to make the world stronger at this unprecedented moment.

The 6 artists who have joined me for this exhibition—Annu Palakunnathu Matthew, Steven Subotnick, John Devault, Daniel O’Neill, Lauren Mantecón, and Andrea Pérez Bessin—are all addressing the idea of “digital breath/e” and what this means as we enter a new year challenged by COVID. 

As I begin to think about the work that I will create for this show and I continue to speak with the other artists (through email and Zoom) about their work, I begin to realize that we will find ourselves fully immersed as artists in the issues that confront all of us on a daily basis. Breathing is being, elemental, and leads to a form of communication. In Digital Breath at the Newport Art Museum, 7 artists are communicating with their digital breath.”

About Brian C. O’Malley

Brian C. O’Malley is a multimedia artist who lives and works in Greenville, RI. Brian has shown his short films in Greece, Russia, Chile, Canada, Switzerland, France, Venezuela, Uruguay, and all over the United States. In 2016 Brian received a Fellowship in Film & Video from the Rhode Island State Council for the Arts. He has also received fellowships to attend  artist residencies at Ragdale Foundation, Brush Creek Foundation, Playa, and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. Brian is the curator of RIIA shorts 2020 (Rhode Island Independent Animators), a series of live screenings of short animated films, shown around the state of Rhode Island.  The screenings started at the Jamestown Arts Center in February of 2020, but was unfortunately cut short in March because of the Covid Pandemic. Brian hopes to resume screenings of RIIA shorts in 2021.

Clip from Lauren Mantecón Forgiveness, 2020,27 seconds, sounds and audio editing by John DeVault, animation and video editing by Brian C. O’Malley.

Clip of here and beyond (work in progress), 2020, video projection, Audio: Composed by John DeVAult; Animation and video by: Brian C. O’Malley. Courtesy of the artists.

Clip from Steven Subotnick, Line, 2020, 2:01 minutes.

Clip from Annu Palakunnathu Matthew, To Majority Minority – Ysabel, 2015, 24 seconds, 3D printed Book. Courtesy the artist and sepiaEYE, NYC.