Vicious Circular Breathing

“Vicious Circular Breathing” is a hermetically-sealed apparatus that invites the public to breathe the air that was previously breathed by participants before them. Commissioned by Borusan Contemporary in Istanbul, the installation consists of a glass room with double sliding doors, two emergency exits, carbon dioxide and oxygen sensors, a set of motorized bellows, an electromagnetic valve system, and 61 brown paper bags hanging from respiration tubes.

In the piece, visitors’ breath is kept circulating and made tangible by automatically inflating and deflating the brown paper bags around 10,000 times a day, the normal respiratory frequency for an adult at rest. There are 61 bags because that constitutes 5 octaves which is a typical range of musical organs which inspire the design.

The piece includes warnings for asphyxiation, contagion and panic, and produces a faint mechanical sound, a quiet whir from the air flow and a louder crackle from the crumpling bags.

To participate, an audience member presses a button on the outside of the glass prism. They can then enter a vestibule and wait for it to be decompressed. Once they enter the main chamber, they sit down and breathe the recycled air.

Please find here an interview with Rafael Lozano-Hemmer about the piece.

General info

Spanish name:
Respiración Circular Viciosa
Year of creation:
sealed glass prism with automated sliding door system, motorized bellows, electromagnetic valve manifold, 61 brown paper bags, custom circuitry, respiration tubing, sensors, computer
glass prism is 2,43m x 2,43m x 2,43m
Minimum floor space for full installation 6 x 10m
3 Editions, 1 AP
Borusan Contemporary


  • Programming: Stephan Schulz, Jordan Parsons
  • Production Assistance: Sebastien Dallaire, Jordan Parsons, Guillaume Tremblay, Charlotte Fournier, Pierre Fournier, Boris Dempsey, Julie Bourgeois, Karine Charbonneau, Pierre Routhier, Jesse Badger