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Review: Breathing By Numbers

On 5th October Julian Knxx curated a series of events and performances across three days. His Black Corporeal Series included a screening of his film Breathing By Numbers accompanied by various performances. The first of the series was accompanied by a choir and the vocal stylings of Thabo, a personal favourite.


In anticipation of the night, I had high expectations. The last I'd seen of Knxx's work was his film installation, Black Corporeal (Breathe) at 180 The Strand. The piece was powerful. The composition, lighting, music and choice of display created an atmosphere rich in beautiful melancholic tones. The film took a heavy subject and lifted it to the light. Breathing seemed like an ethereal practice that I would endeavour to partake in. That I needed. I couldn't leave that space without a recorded keepsake. Memory wouldn't be enough.


Julianknxx, Black Corporeal (Breathing by Numbers), 2022, Untitled, courtesy of the artist © Studioknxx

Breathing by Numbers didn't leave me feeling the same way. It left me aware of the need to breathe consciously. The film, narrated by Rosamund Adoo-Kissi-Debrah, shares her experience of losing her daughter to air pollution. Her story took the ethereal and grounded it in the unsettling reality of life. Though aesthetically beautiful, I wasn't too sure of the abstract visuals as an accompaniment or response to her story. However, I think the abstract moments would have been better matched with the live performance.


Once the film ended, we were greeted by the gradual nearing of sound from angelic voices. I love choral music and the choir was nothing short of fantastic. As they cascaded down the stairs on either side of the room, shrouded in capes, I was stuck in a blend of awe and unease. Bear with me. The unease came from what felt like a presence, perhaps an atmosphere, that was coming to overtake me but I wasn't prepared for it. It took me a while to relax into what was being created around me.


Credit : Julianknxx, Black Corporeal (Breathing by Numbers), 2022, Untitled, courtesy of the artist © Studioknxx

Upon reflective conversation, I think it could be a lack of tone setting. There wasn't a cohesive flow from film to performance. The film and performance felt separate. Once I settled into what was happening I could truly appreciate Knxx's vision. As mentioned previously, I'm a Thabo fan so naturally, I wanted more of him however there was a back-and-forth between him and Knoxx that I found the most appealing. It was a dance between song and poetry, a call and response. Apart from the dance, I felt that his poetry got lost beneath the melodies. The strongest elements were the repetitive phrases. I would have liked for the poetry to have had its own light.


All in all, I appreciate JulianKnxx's expression. I think he's a visionary and the true embodiment of a creative. I want to see what he does next, and where his processing of life leads him. I may not agree with every choice but I respect greatly the ability to create and share in the way he did. To be a cultivator of atmospheres is a heavy crown to wear, but so far I think he's worn it well.



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