Breathing Room by UK-based artist Anna Berry is a walk-in kinetic light installation that perfectly combines organic and machine elements, creating a unique sensory experience.
Powered by an outer mechanical skeleton, Breathing Room invites you into a gently illuminated tunnel lined with 28,000 cones that ‘breathe’ like a living organism.
Anna Berry is an artist whose work is frequently shown in non-gallery environments. Anna works in a great variety of media, but especially with paper because of its fragile and ephemeral nature.
Welcome to Breathing Room
Welcome to Breathing Room an immersive art installation created by Anna Berry. Anna is a UK artist who often creates work in non-gallery environments. She enjoys creating large installations and often works with paper and movement.
Breathing Room is a curvaceous tunnel around three metres high and two metres wide that winds gently left and right for a distance of 16 meters. The walls and ceiling of the tunnel are lined with 28,000 handmade cones in a flexible white material called Tyvek, which has similar qualities to paper, but is harder wearing. The cones were made on kitchen tables in the homes of volunteers during the Covid-19 pandemic and we would ask you to refrain from touching them as they can get crushed. As you make your way along the path, a gentle ripple passes through your surroundings. The walls and the arched ceiling seem to inhale and exhale with an almost imperceptible wave of movement. As you round a bend, the structure envelopes you and daylight passes through the gaps between the cones, dappling the ground with light.
The movement of the structure is accompanied by a score of sounds as the cones rub together and creak and the mechanics of the movement whistle and crank around you. The outside of the structure is as much a work of art as the inside.
The whole piece is suspended inside a metal framework, like a huge ribcage, with a network of bars, levers, cogs and chains, some constructed from repurposed bicycle parts. On the roof, groups of bicycle chains run through pedal and wheel cogs, pulling levers that gently lift and lower the walls of the tunnel.
The mechanisms was built by Clive Doherty, who is the artist and engineer who collaborating with Anna on creating the piece..
It takes a crew of 7 people three days to construct; and 12 volunteers a day and a half to attach the cones by hand; and yet, after a day to dismantle it again, it fits in an elegant flat pack design, like a giant “Meccano set”, in custom made boxes.
Listen to Breathing Room audio guide
How does the piece work?
There are 4 motors, powered by car batteries. Each motor is connected to a series of mechanisms, built from recycled bicycle parts – look at the top of the frames to see the cogs and chains! These turn and move the series of levers along each metal arch piece, which are in turn attached to the panels of cones. As the mechanism turns, they gently pull on the cone panels, which is what creates the rolling ‘breathing’ movement you experience inside the tunnel.
Who built it?
The exterior metalwork was built by a team of freelance fabricators based at 101 Outdoor Arts Creation Space in Newbury, led by Martin West. The mechanism was made by Anna’s main collaborator, artist-engineer Clive Doherty, at the Festive Road workshops in Milton Keynes. The cones have all been rolled by hand by freelance makers in Milton Keynes, at their kitchen tables during lockdown. On site this week the piece was installed by our freelance build team. Every element of the piece has been bespoke made by hand.
Are the cones made of paper?
The cones are made from a material called Tyvek – they look like paper but are actually a formed plastic which is both waterproof and flame proof. Despite looking delicate, they are fairly durable and will be used across many presentations. At the end of their life, they are sent back to the manufacturer to be recycled back in to new sheets of Tyvek.
How many cones are there?
There are approximately 28,000 cones in the artwork. Each one has been rolled by hand, by freelance makers on their kitchen tables at home during the Covid-19 ‘lockdown’. They are threaded on to the structure, on site, by a team of crew and volunteers. It takes roughly 90 hours to complete the onsite cladding, carried out over 1.5 days by teams of 8 people at a time.
Access guide in large print is available at Breathing Room