Finding prāṇa: digital and performative experiments in search of a technology of the self

Collard, Helen (2019) Finding prāṇa: digital and performative experiments in search of a technology of the self. Doctoral thesis, Northumbria University.

Text (Doctoral thesis)
collard.helen_phd.pdf - Submitted Version

Download (110MB) | Preview


In this practice-based research yogic breath techniques are integrated into biofeedback art. The yogic concept of prāṇa (life-breath) and its related philosophy and practices underpin the research. In addition, the yogic practices and philosophy of breath are contemplated within respiratory philosophy and Foucault’s (1988) observation of ‘care of the self’ and his wider concept of ‘technologies of the self’. The yogic breath in this research is explored via three artistic fields: 1) performance art, 2) embodied audio interaction with bio-signals, and 3) sound art. Through a performance in each field the physical, mental, ethical and philosophical dimensions of breath are traced.
Informed by these ideas and an initial fieldtrip to the Kaivalydhama Yoga Institute, the ambition of this practice-based research is to ‘find’ prāṇa-as-technology for utility in biofeedback art practice as directed by two questions: (1) How can artistic research be integrated with breath practices? (2) What does this integration contribute to our understanding of prāṇa?
The research is undertaken through a practice-based reflective methodology (Sullivan, 2005) conducted through a ‘self-laboratorium’ (Varela,1999) which produced three performance works that each integrated a different breathing practice and artistic field to find prāṇa: (1) Hawk uses an āsana (posture) practice in a performance art work; (2) Finding Prāṇa employs neuro-imaging technology (fNIRS) to sonify and visualise realtime brain-state data during a live prāṇāyāma (breath controlling) performance; (3) Public Address System is a sound art performance of an ensemble breath meditation in an architectural resonant space. Collectively across three distinct artistic fields a contribution to biofeedback art is made.
Through using breath practices within the field of biofeedback art the contribution of this research has: (1) developed a practice that integrates breathing practice within performance; (2) which necessitates the acknowledgement of two ‘technological mainframes’ – the technology of machines and algorithms and the technology of the breath itself; (3) the creation of unique sound and visual system applied to fNIRS technology as a way to explore the changing hemodynamic response during prāṇāyāma practice; (4) the introduction of a ‘technology of breath’ as a ‘listening technology’ (5) the consideration of breath intrinsic to our wider technological thinking, designing and making.
The outputs of the research are: a documentary film of the initial fieldtrip to Kaivalydhama Yoga Institute; Three biofeedback performance works Hawk, Finding Prāṇa and Public Address System; and The Taxonomy which is developed for the research to trace the development of, and also write with and about, the three performance works. Each performance has been ‘published’ beyond the PhD. Hawk at The Cistern, Bòlit Centre for Contemporary Art, Spain; Finding Prāṇa in Ubiquity: The Journal of Pervasive Media; and Public Address System at BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, UK.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Biofeedback art - embodied interaction with biosignals, yoga practice and philosophy, sound art, performance art, listening
Subjects: W100 Fine Art
W900 Others in Creative Arts and Design
Department: Faculties > Arts, Design and Social Sciences > Arts
University Services > Graduate School > Doctor of Philosophy
Depositing User: Rachel Branson
Date Deposited: 07 Feb 2020 12:14
Last Modified: 28 Jun 2023 10:30

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


Downloads per month over past year

View more statistics