Skip to content | Accessibility Information

Pinchbeck, M., 2024.

Somewhere between breathing in and breathing out: Making immersive audio work about the experience of Long Covid

Output Type:Journal article
Publication:Performance Research: a journal of the performing arts
Publisher:Taylor & Francis (Routledge), Aberystwyth
Volume/Issue:29 (3)

Breathturn, a word coined by the poet Paul Celan, was the inspiration for a new audio immersive performance by Michael Pinchbeck for the Shedding Light on Long COVID project in Derby installed in September 2023. Edmund de Waal mentions that 'Celan cannot find words to fit together easily so he brings words together into newness. One of these is Atemwende or 'breathturn' (2015: 388). De Waal defines this as 'the strange moment of pause between breathing in and breathing out when your sense of self is suspended and you are open to everything' (ibid).

This article discusses how the audio immersive performance takes the concept of Celan's 'breathturn' as a metaphor for the experience of people with Long COVID, and draws on patient testimonies using verbatim text to shed light on neglected medical narratives. Part of a body of work devised during the pandemic to render the dynamics of one-to-one performance into auto-teatro for an audience member to experience in their own time, on their own devices, the piece enacts what Rachel Zerihan calls a 'strange duet' between audience members and an audio track (2023). It connects to topics of 'breath and precarity' and 'breath during grief and mourning'.

Curated by Dr Rhiannon Jones, Shedding Light on Long COVID is a unique Sci-Art Public Realm Research Project at Derby Cathedral and Museum of Making, Derby, that brings together national and local key stakeholders, including Policy Makers, Clinicians, Scientists, Long COVID Charities, NHS partners, third sector, public and artists; and a team of scientists at University of Derby, led by Dr Mark Faghy. The project seeks to use S.H.E.D to help bring to life research data and patient diaries that have been conducted at the university on Long COVID. Breathturn (2023) is a commissioned artistic contribution to the project by Dr Michael Pinchbeck. Audio track available online here: