Breathe Deep

Breathe Deep

Breathe Deep is a 3D animation of an overwhelming amount of objects. The main character, an overly made-up blond Barbie-like character, reclines underneath a pile of many colorful items. The woman isn’t quite right, however, as it seems that she is missing a major part of her head; as though part of her skull and brain have been removed. The array of multi-colored items covering her vary from buildings to My Little Pony figurines. Things surrounding this reclining woman are not constrained to the laws of gravity and several pieces, mainly fish, float around the piece. This brings to question if the scene depicted takes place on land or underwater. The only sound that accompanies the two-minute and forty-nine-second video is the sound of running water and chirping birds, either confusing or clarifying the setting of the scene.

Throughout the duration of the piece, the viewer is shown several detail shots. These close-ups give further insight into what makes up the pile of detritus blanketing the subject of the piece. These vignettes show that nearly everything moves in some subtle way; rainbows shoot from stars, water flows from fountains, and invisible breezes sweep through palm fronds. The further the viewer is taken through the video, the more they are shown of the scene; at a certain point, the frame zooms out to reveal that below the lying figure are corals and sea creatures. At this same point, a hose the figure was holding turns on a flow of yellow liquid, which the woman uses to water a group of androgynous, clown-headed, flowers. Directly following this, a key-frame shows the female figure pointing the hose toward her mouth and ingesting the yellow liquid. Throughout the whole video, she looks very content. At a certain point, a blob of undetermined substance drips onto her face, and she reacts pleasantly to it. 

From what has been illustrated here, it is apparent that Torn is discussing female roles in society and how they are expected to react to those roles. Torn has lobotomized this woman; a proper woman should not think. Her face appears to be composited with features that comprise the “ideal” face. She has been piled with things that women have been characterized as enjoying: pretty, brightly colored, and happy things. Her image is created after society’s vision of the ideal woman: blonde, blue eyed, with lots of make up and full lips. This woman accepts what is handed to her, and happily drinks the urine of those who oppress her. She cannot move, nor does she need to. This is society’s “ideal woman.” The inclusion of the androgynous clown-heads seems to nod to the LGBTQ sector of society; where members are also oppressed by mainstream society.

This work can also be connected to consumer culture. Many of the items included in the pile of debris are recognizable as commercialized articles. The Barbie head, My Little Pony, Legos, etc. are all present. She is literally buried beneath purchasable items. In one close-up, one could even make out a cupcake baking tin. As if to say, this woman can buy things, bake things, and lie there.

"Breathe Deep” is a film about a virtual sculpture that could only exist in the realm of the digital combining natural and synthetic, human and avatar, plant and machine. A dystopic female figure has become one with a pile of debris. She is a virtual architectural ecosystem made of gifs, 3D models, plastic and fake liquids. (via Art By Chance, 2014).
Elements comingle in an uncomfortable conflation of innocence and adulteration—playful, childhood toys rendered in soft pastels reside in toxic, apocalyptic environments. Operating in close relation to the “natural” world, biomorphic forms excrete and ingest brightly colored liquid into and from their surrounds, suggesting a life-force akin to oil or blood. (via highlike, 2015).

This piece, and others by Torn, are wonderful for many reasons. First off, this is a computer generated imagery created by a woman. Though this should not make this artwork novel, in our current social climate, it does. There are not the numbers of women creating art like this that there are of men. Secondly, her choice of imagery is really great. This piece is aesthetically pleasing. The beauty of the piece successfully cloaks the message she wishes to convey, though is readily apparent to those that choose to take a deeper dive into what is being shown in the work. That is a really interesting and difficult way to create art.

Breathe Deep, is comparable to another of Torn’s pieces, titled #DuckFace. This piece is a part of a series with similar titles that reflect popular hashtags relating to selfies seen around social media: #BathroomSelfie, #FoodSelfie, etc. This piece features the visage of a young woman making a “duck face”; she purses her lips to their furthest extent and bats her eyelashes at the camera. This piece uses similar methods utilized in Breathe Deep. The color palette and, really, overall aesthetic are reminiscent of her earlier work. This piece is more direct in its critique of women’s role in society. This work discusses the differences and similarities between online and real life personas; where does one end and where does one begin? It is a really beautiful discussion of identity.

Performing alone for a camera connected to a social network, @RealSelfCindy examines her body in order to discover her real self. Through the lens of Instagram, human and avatar, subject and object are conflated to form a true identity where the mind can turn the body into anything that it imagines. (via dataa-editions, 2016).

Both Katie Torn and Kytten Janae are forces in the group of female animators working in a world largely populated by men. Both create work that breaks the mold of traditionally viewed CGI animations. When one performs an image search for computer-generated imagery, they are generally met with dark and violent images, largely produced by men. These two artists create something different from the status quo.

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Kytten Janae’s work functions separately from traditional art practices; she creates .gifs, sans title, and posts them regularly to her various social media platforms. Several of her pieces are comparable to Katie Torn’s Breathe Deep; these works are created from similar processes, yielding comparable results. Comparable meaning that they are brightly colored, 3-dimensional, animations created by women in the field. However, Torn’s work appears to be informed by a direct critique on women’s place in internet culture and society, Kytten Janae’s pieces will more generally tend toward a neutral depiction of the human form, accompanied by captions that reference popular cultural statements and tropes.

In her short video, don’t be sad, Janae depicts a being that could be considered human-like, but is clearly not human. This creature has no identifying sexual features. It’s pale pink skin looks as though it has been made of silly-putty. Its face undulates in waves as it drudges forward; there appear to be no bones there. Its posture is defeated, shoulders slumping, arms hanging. Attached to its back are several balloons, that appear to be the only thing holding this creature upright. As it moves forward through the 10-second clip, a butterfly passes by. This goes unnoticed by the subject of the video.

This piece as a part of an entire series entitled don’t be sad is one of two pieces that features a slumped, solemn looking being. Others in the series show dancing forms similar to these, but they lack the depressed posture of this particular piece. This piece reflects the state sadness, while others reflect actions done to fend off sadness. Though, these could literally be purely aesthetic and put into categories according to when they were made and their subject. Diving deep into these pieces seems to be a contrived practice.

Another work that is comparable to Breathe Deep is Claudia Maté’s Self-Portrait from 2012. This piece features two young women, seated on a bright pink couch. In front of them sits a video camera, filming the two. One of the women is working on a Macbook, eating and ice cream cone, her long braided hair defying gravity much like an anime character’s might. The two actually very much resemble anime characters, with large eyes, stiff hair, elongated extremities. In front of the two sits a camera that appears to be recording their actions. Next to the camera is a stack of coins, though larger in scale than actual coins. Two balls from Dragon Ball Z are also present.

This piece clearly reflects things “of the internet.” It appears to comment on social interactions women have with the internet; these two are filming themselves and have a stack of coins next to the camera. The coins seem to represent the monetary compensation made from filming themselves, as they are larger than real life currency they could be viewed as bitcoins. This is a piece that shows empowerment of women on the internet. They are able to make monetary gains through their own faces. This is different from Breathe Deep, as that depicted a woman that was completely without power, while this image shows two women who are able to manipulate the internet to make monetary gains.

Breathe Deep has been exhibited at the following locations:

  • 2015, XPO Gallery, Paris
  • 2014, Theatre District, Denver Digerati, Denver (this piece was commissioned for this event)
  • 2014, PS1 MoMA, New York City
  • 2014, Usdan Gallery at Bennington College, Vermont