Gita Ralleigh and Miny Walker are medical doctors at Imperial NHS who worked through the pandemic. Miny was seconded onto ITU and has used her ceramics training to produce masks and leaves in white porcelain, to reflect upon her experience of how walking in nature helped her cope. Gita has taken a translation of Achille Mbembe’s paper The Universal Right to Breathe (Critical Inquiry 2021 47: S2, 58-62 available here) written presciently in 2020, a few months into the pandemic, as the source of found text for her poem.
These are images of the artwork ‘in-progress’, we envisage that they will be replaced/ added to by an image of the final installed work in the gallery.
A moonscape of distance on all sides,
this sudden terror of contagion. Eyes
shut to war, closing in on the mortal
body. Life becomes sacrificial.
The tunnel is an ordeal. Confinement
to inertia of flesh and bones. Each
chokehold breath a subjection to flux:
oxygen in, carbon dioxide out. Deep
within its synthetic eye, a machine
heart nurturing an illusion of freedom.
Here is the question: how to survive
an aftermath of calamity? To ground
radical, root and juncture requires
an answer for human brutality. How
to live in common with earthly species
upon this conscious biosphere?
We must enter the forests, planetary
lungs, to escape our constrained fate.
Seek what eludes imagination, rupture
tomorrow’s looking glass of separation.
poem made with found text from Achille Mbembe’s The Universal Right To Breathe (2020) translated by Carolyn Shread and available here