BREATHLESS

Flaka Haliti, Marguerite Humeau, Donna Kukama, and Julius von Bismarck


The Power Plant presents BREATHLESS, a unique partnership with guest curator Ala Roushan.

GUEST CURATOR: ALA ROUSHAN
ASSISTANT CURATOR: JACQUELINE KOK, NANCY MCCAIN & BILL MORNEAU CURATORIAL FELLOW, 2021-23

BREATHLESS arises from today’s urgent concerns about our shared atmosphere—including the global pandemic, racial injustice (“I can’t breathe”), forest fires, and carbon emissions—all of which create a sense of uncertainty about our future.

Conceived as an ecosystem, BREATHLESS manifests as an outdoor pavilion with integrated artworks that address the vulnerabilities of the breath. The pavilion builds upon architects Alison and Peter Smithson’s prototype, House of the Future, which was exhibited in 1956—a time, much like today, that was characterized by threats from the air and by a fascination with climate control technology. BREATHLESS inverts the inaccessible private courtyard of the Smithsons’ show house into a public pavilion, challenging the closed condition of domestic space and the obsession with uncontaminated air.

BREATHLESS is animated by a cyclical rhythm from dusk to dawn, with Julius von Bismarck’s video installation transforming the pavilion’s air-filled walls, penetrating the enclosure with a fiery projection of a world engulfed in smoke and smog. As the sun rises, the video evaporates, revealing a hazy gaze in the interior of the pavilion and inviting audiences onto Flaka Haliti’s ground of shifting microparticles, which blur the boundaries between inside and outside—referring to both architecture and the body. As if emerging from the liquified ground and surviving suffocation, Marguerite Humeau’s imaginary creature of genetically evolved respiratory tracts breathes the air of a new atmosphere. Deep from within, Donna Kukama’s voice interrupts the circadian rhythm of the pavilion with the asynchronous cadence of her breath sharing personal narratives as we breathe together.

Flaka Haliti (born in Pristina, Kosovo, 1982) lives in Munich and represented her home country Kosovo at the Venice Biennale in 2015. She has exhibited internationally, was a scholarship holder of the Villa Romana in Florence in 2017, and is a recipient of the Ars Viva Prize and the Henkel Award.

Marguerite Humeau (born in France, 1986) lives and works in London, UK. Humeau’s work stages the crossing of great distances in time and space, transitions between animal and mineral, and encounters between personal desires and natural forces. Among many exhibitions and public collections, Humeau is a participating artist in the 2022 Venice Biennale.  

Donna Kukama (born in South Africa, 1981) is an interdisciplinary artist whose work is informed by performance-based research processes. Kukama has exhibited and presented performances at several notable institutions and museums, including Tate Modern, London, and the South African National Gallery, Cape Town.

Julius von Bismarck (born in Breisach am Rhein, Germany, 1983) grew up in Riad, Saudi Arabia, and currently lives in Berlin. Associating visual arts with other fields of research and experimentation, von Bismarck’s artistic practice is defined by an in-depth and complex exploration of the phenomena of perception, or the representation and reconstruction of reality. 

BREATHLESS is organized and presented in partnership with The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery and ArtworxTO: Toronto’s Year of Public Art 2021–2022.