Mel O’Callaghan b. 1975 Sydney, Australia. Lives and works in Sydney and Paris.

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undo the day, NAS Galleries, Sydney
opens 14 June until 3 August, 2024


Respire, Respire, 2019, breath performance with dielectric glass, 20 minutes

Photo: Andrea Rossetti


APR 20 - SEP 24, 2023

Curated by Vittoria Matarrese

Alglass, Respire, Respire, 2019
Dielectric glass, metal wire, 125 x 100 x 77 cm

Orbe/dome, Respire, Respire, 2019
Dielectric glass, metal wire, ⌀ 150 cm x 16 cm

Etats/States, Respire, Respire, 2019
Dielectric glass, metal wire, 200 x 150 x 35 cm

An almost transparent installation, capturing and reflecting all the variations in colors and light emanating from the lake, 'Respire, Respire' proposes instruments of communication with our own body, which dialogue with the surrounding landscape at the same time. The study of rituals in different civilizations, led for a long time by Mel O‘Callaghan, often takes a deep desire for communion with the human and vegetable or mineral forms that inhabit our planet as a starting point, and makes them resonate with each other and within ourselves. Through a collection of sculptures, films, paintings, and performances, the artist often explores the immersive power of trance but also, paradoxically, this way of being able to go “outside oneself,” the limits of one’s own body, to reach a state of symbiosis with what surrounds us, just like memory, gesture, and transmission. Thus, facing the lake, these crystal capsules reflect, deform, and transform the space into almost liquid matter by playing with prisms of color. The shapes of the sculptures themselves, round, elongated, convex and concave, are freely inspired by the observation of extremophiles—underwater organisms thriving in so-called “extreme” conditions—which she also captures in the film ‘Centre of the Centre’ (2019), tracing the origins of life and its regenerating forces. Therefore, it is life that we are talking about here, above all. The titles of the works thus set the tone and dictate a rhythm. ‘Respire, Respire’ thinks about the foundation of all life and exposes breath, both as an elementary impulse and as a source of connection to the abundant depths. In collaboration with Sabine Rittner (associate researcher and music therapist at the Institute of Medical Psychology at the University Hospital of Heidelberg in Germany), the artist has imagined a performance based on inhalation and exhalation techniques, aiming to provoke joy or serenity, but also and above all to provoke altered states of consciousness and moments of meditation, ecstasy, or hallucination. In a crescendo of intensity, the work of art becomes global. The landscape opens and diaphragms too; the sound of the performer’s breaths pulsates through the works as well as the hearts of visitors.

Performers: Cristina Bernasconi, Chloé Bertini, Tommaso Cavalcanti, Samuel Puggioni & Sabine Rittner
Cellist: Nicollò Basile
Developed in collaboration with Sabine Rittner, research associate, Institute for Medical Psychology Center for Psychosocial Medicine Heidelberg University, Germany