Some twenty-two years ago, in 1964, I began my first works based on the phenomenon of breathing. At the time this was a question of music: breaths were translated into music, my so-called "Atemmusiken" or Breath Music, in which either the rhythmical element of breath as it was drawn in or expelled was formally defined for a performance of music (a piece using the organ: the rhythm was played with the so-called expression pedal, an instrument that allows the musical structure to change constantly through the continual swelling and diminution of the strength of the sound); or else there were changed various tones of breathing employed for playing an octet of wind instruments, such as the flow of exhalation, puffs and flutings on various instruments, reeds, and mouthpieces. I then moved on to the visual models of breathing-rhythms through the use of balloons from which air was released, and then with fur objects which are still a basic element of my work. From the very start, two components of breathing were revealed; I will deal with these later on in my description of the interaction between noise and its context. For me, from the moment of the creation of these objects until today, the spiritual background and meaning of the breathing and movement of these objects has changed. My work with breathing as an element of art has always been part of a sensitivity towards breathing that might well be defined as neurotic, one which, because of a throat illness, has always kept me aware of breathing because any agitation or physical exertion caused me breathing difficulties. This sensitivity joined up with my conviction at the time that it was possible to manage and control artificially all the organic processes of the body with chemical substances, drugs etc. This led my inclination to be influenced in this way in order, so to say, to balance all my natural imperfections in the way I liked: the tiredness when I ought to have been working, my insomnia when I wanted to sleep, my bad mood when I should have been communicating with others etc. Starting from this point of view (certainly rising from my deepest subconscious, but also an expression of my persona) I developed organisms produced technically, works whose fascination was found in breathing, exhaling, pauses, and slowness broken up by speedy moments which, in reality, no human lungs would be able to do. The work with "Atemobjekte", Breath Objects, and the change of relationships relative to position, place, and situation soon demonstrated to me that it was possible to change their nature completely: in other words, the objects could become basic symbolic figures in specific situations in life, or else they could becomes fears. It also showed me that they could, at the same time, change their setting: Kienholz mounted an "Atemobjekte" in a corner of his "brothel environment". At the time I noted about these experiences that "In fact, the rails of children’s beds were only designed as a protection, since no one wanted to sit on a sleeping child; but, apart from this, I discovered that an object suddenly took on a wholly different nature: from it there sprang something inappropriately menacing and violent". I had understood that the "Atemobjekte" change their basic nature according to the place they are in. When the objects are placed in the middle of a wall they seem relatively abstract or, at the most, "underwater"; when placed in a corner the seem to grow wings and, slightly frightened, they fly back there again. Hidden in a corner they feel at home, at times as though lurking there. Crouched on a tree trunk they become its parasite; they can spread the horror inside the human body, preferably in the throat, like a malign tumour. Furthermore, their ambiguity is not limited in any way but, rather, they acquire greater mystery because there appears a component that is opposed to the character generated by the form of the movement. The original "universal metaphors of organic life" now become metaphors for parasitical proliferation, or for the illnesses of prisoners (in a cage), or for brutal usurpation (a child’s bed) etc. The objects, place, and room become a part of the statement.

The "Atemobjekte" give me the possibility of artistically formulating a multiplicity of experiences and environmental problems. So the first "Atemobjekte" gained so much from the experience of the contrast between artificiality and naturalness, even in a comparison with the context, with the so-called civilised environment, that in recent years they have begun a notable mutation towards the organic and harmonic. This development came about in tandem with the grass mats, the origins of which I will describe later, and with the discovery of the previously-mentioned breathing techniques. (At the service of mysticism and handed down almost always in secret, there were developed over the centuries special breathing techniques; their effect was similar to that of psychedelic drugs and they were receptive to the enormous possibilities for self-awareness and a widening of consciousness.) What is more, my recent tendency to integrate the "Atemobjekte" with mandala forms is symptomatic of a certain reorientation and harmonisation. The term Mandala derives from Sanskrit and describes the ritual magic circle that, having its origins in incisions made on rock during the stone age, appears as such in the cultures of all peoples: from Indian geoglyphs to complex forms of Lamaist cosmograms, and to the rose windows of our own cathedrals. The labyrinths and plans of churches (Reims, Chartres) can also be considered mandalas to be walked around (as with healing processions). Mandalas are a symbol of unity: for Zazen, a simple circle is an expression of the totality of the universe because of the void outside it. Quite apart from the personal world of instincts and imagination, they represent an interpersonal experience of a higher  order and harmony. In situations of alternative knowledge they can, for example, be tried out in individual manifestations as pulsating, spatial, and circular structures. The use of "Atemobjekte" in mandala structures corresponds to a substantial semantic mutation: the movement is not only organic, visible in animals, but it is to be found in a context in which it must be interpreted as transcendental magic.

On the meaning of breath

Due to the influence that my familiarity with breathing techniques has had on me, due above all to the increase in my experiences but also to the fact that I stopped using chemical means for controlling my body and, as a result, underwent a great change in my approach to life, I will write here a report on these breathing techniques and will explore the meaning of breathing. For Hennemann I published some notes about the possibilities of controlling the body and mind with psychoactive drugs, as well as with other methods: electrical (pacemakers, brain stimulation), surgical (operations on the brain, sex adjustments), and biological ones (genetic manipulation). I will now mention some techniques that in part arrive at the same results in a natural way and that as a result - and this is fundamental - do not have the negative complications that make, for example, psychoactive drugs so problematical. Side by side with a chemical control of life there is also, in a certain sense, a control through breathing techniques; from these we must judge up to what point they can stimulate or mitigate endogenous chemical production.

1. When the breath rises upwards from below, and then from above to below, know yourself through this!
2. Or else, when the breath that enters flows into the breath being released, in that moment it brushes the centre, either full or emptied of energy.
3. Or again, when breath is completely released or remains completely within and stands still, then our tiny soul disappears into this universal pause. This is only difficult for the impure.
4. With great dedication, concentrate on both of breath’s connecting points and know what is knowable.
(From the "Vigyan Bhairav Tantra", 3000 BC)

It is fundamental, on the one hand, to distinguish between the methods in which breathing helps concentration and, on the other, to observe the particular processes of the activity of breathing - in a certain sense to test breath, in which it is considered in a symbolic manner: each exhalation is a death, and each breath we take is a rebirth: exhale death and inhale rebirth. This is a help for looking within oneself and for modifying the development of the spirit. (Tantra and Zazen). Then there exist methods that aim at acting directly on the organism and psyche through the control of breath. Special yoga breathing techniques consider breathing, not just to be the assimilation of oxygen and air, but the assimilation of vital energy. Breathing is also a fundamental bringer of this special vital energy (Wilhelm Reich called it Orgon) that, through thought and the will, stops and can be directed to any area of the body whatever. Breathing is systemised with special energetic flows in order to revitalise and recharge energies and to heal. If we continue further in the area of mysticism we can find breathing techniques, almost exclusively handed down through secret schools, that anticipate hyperventilation, or rapid breathing. As part of religious rites, developed by way of prayers and songs, rhythms and the reinforcement of the amount of breath used while speaking, these techniques are still used in Muslim monasteries as a tool for spiritual or, as we would say today, interpersonal experiences. These include the phenomena of energising, of luminous apparitions (of an interior light), and of being one with the cosmos: experiences of union, of unknown myths, experiences that go beyond personal possibilities for sensorial perception and open a way to greater awareness (which is usually unknown). Some examples of these breathing techniques have been recorded on sacred audio cassettes: a kind of trial of mysticism under the guidance of Sufis (the Sufis are members of a mystical Oriental religious order). Starting by giving a rhythm to speech (an invocation of Allah follows an Al-la-ha rhythm), the rhythm of breathing visibly becomes autonomous, changes, and soon takes on the rhythm of a drum and increases to the point of disturbing excesses of breathlessness, only then, having surmounted the surmountable, to drain away. The sobbing technique of the Beguines (nuns based in the Netherlands) have the same aim. Certainly, all this is part of the experience of us all when our emotions influence our breathing. Just as excitement accelerates respiration and calmness slows it down, so in the reverse process an acceleration of breathing activates the actions of our feelings, or its slowing down leads to calmness. Researches by Lowen have shown that the body has a self-defensive mechanism that can "turn off" feelings: it closes the throat in the case of unbearable fear or of emotions. These researches also show that unpleasant feelings can be blocked as a result of reduced respiration (those whose breathing lessens feel less at an emotional level). On the other hand, if used on purpose speedy respiration (hyperventilation), often the unconscious result of a shock due to an accident, can lead to a great freeing up of repressed feelings, only then to produce a strong emotional increase with euphoric effects. Breathing is basically considered as an expression of communication with the environment, and disturbances (slowing down) of respiration reflect the disturbance of this communication and the relationship with the environment. Knowledge of this method, and of mysticism’s breathing techniques, has been widely used in forms of therapeutic breathing; these have had great success, starting with the Read’schen breathing exercises, known for some time among specialists (in combination with other psychotherapeutic methods) for treating depression, psychosomatic illnesses, etc. The particular significance of respiration methods - after an effective abandonment of extraneous influences, programmes, and limitations in favour of a renewal of one’s own situation - is to be found in the possibility of widening one’s own perception and arriving at a deepening of awareness of one’s self and one’s existence. (Catalogue "Atemobjekte Weseler", Copyright Draier Verlag, Haun und Hitzelberger GmbH, Printed in  Germany, 1986)

experiences in relationships with the "atemobjekte" and the symbolic content of the new "spiegelobjekte"

Besides the experiences I had over the many years of work on my "Atemobjekte", or Breath Objects, about the reciprocal influence between the object and the context, my frequent contacts with viewers and other interested people allowed me a surprising understanding of how my work is variously received. This usually has little to do with my personal aims while I am producing my works and is often extremely irritating. And I became aware that their judgements, associations, and emotions (at times violent) were projections of the observers themselves and, therefore, a clue to THEIR psyche rather than corresponding to the reality of the objects (if they exist), at least as far as I can see. From the thoughts and questions about why I do certain things comes the question of how this is perceived and understood by the environment itself, and this leads to the artist’s basic problem: that of being UNDERSTOOD. Briefly, this is what I think. The objects change according to the surrounding environment and, in turn, change the environment itself. The observers always understand the object of their observation from their own point of view: their previous individual experiences, their basic energy (positive or negative), and their "deformations" influence their way of seeing, as in a mirror (convex or concave). An exemplary case is that of the "Bread Object". The interpretations of this varied from the scandalised "This is profaning bread" (characteristic of a generation for which bread was sacred) to contented approval: "It is like a work in lard, and I feel myself in the same way"... "Anything whatsoever you see around you is more a reflection of yourself than a real thing. You look while mirroring yourself all around. When you change, the reflection changes too" (Osho) What I want to say is that it was the recognition of these different levels of reality - one material/tactile, one individual/psychic, and another reflected/mirroring, all superimposed and inseparable - that led to the new "Spiegelobjekte", or mirror objects. The mirrors are partially transparent and allows a look at what lies behind the glass, even if it is not immediately understandable whether we are dealing with a real object or, for example, a photo, because it cannot be touched... Above and in front of the mirror are various materials such as, for instance, glass, sand, feathers, and often an "Atemobjekte" in fur. And the viewers see themselves in their own setting in a different light... This is a revision and an amplification of a theme that had also been touched on in the "Spiegelobjekte" from 1977 (I12/77,30 Expl.): the combination of an "Atemobjekte" with a mirror. The hemispherical breathing object, which is materially tactile, becomes a full sphere because of the mirroring.
The "Spiegelobjekte" also reflect the question of what is knowledge and what are alternative states of knowledge such as trances, hypnosis, dreams, and meditation. The mirroring surfaces symbolise reflective intellect, behind which, as with water, there lies the abyss... (A single theme: water/knowledge.) These are to be considered as creations of the UNITY and balance between different situations, the tactile/sensorial one and the virtual one, and between their reciprocal influence and dependence, and their subjective comprehensibility. The viewer is always included. Fractal elements are also part of their content: the principles and the constitutive elements of the small ones are the same as for the big ones.
(Catalogue "Im Zentrum des Zyklons - Die Stille", Copyright Dreier Verlag, Haun und Hitzelberger GmbH, Printed in Germany, 2001)


Today it is not easy to find among the towns of the highly industrialised Rhineland a tiny corner of land where foxes still wish you goodnight. That singular artist, Günter Weseler, famous for his "Atemobjekte", or Breath Objects, has found such a place in Niederlörick, a rural suburb of the otherwise quite snobbish Düsseldorf, the administrative centre of Upper Rhineland-Westphalia. The cows whose home he has taken over have been replaced with sheep and cats. However, their pulsating lives are a driving force. Weseler's art considers the world of animals so similar as not to be distinguishable from it. On the other hand his works are exclusively made from animal fur. His studio, above all at night, resembles a chamber of horrors. This forty-three year old East German from Allenstein, whose grandparents still manage a farm, has saved animals for modern art. Not as "roaring stags", a German expression indicating the quintessence of mistaken romantic feelings, but as "organic kinetics" which is what Weseler calls his bristly fur art. In fact he began in a traditional way. He painted landscapes together with his mother, a painter and pianist well-known in the area. The young Weseler was self-taught and listened to advice from other artists and visited their studios, above all those in Niebüll, northern Frisia, where the family had moved after the war. He does not seem to have had much success with them and, in fact, having finished school he became a technical apprentice in a broadcasting company with its own recording studio; he finished his studies with a diploma as a technician. This technical basis was to be of great help to him in the 1960s and 1970s when he began to collaborate with the composer Dieter Schönbach to create experimental works together. However, there was not much to experiment with when, in 1952, he devoted himself completely to the technical world and studied architecture for six years at the Braunschweig technical institute where he gained his diploma. However, he continued to paint and closely followed the art trends of the past centuries. His rural idylls, full of tenderness and security, disappeared together with the lessening of the influence of his mother. For a while Weseler devoted himself to fantastic art, something he was to return to even in the 1970s when he created his "soaked dolls" for his Shock Theatre, or when he mounted "excrescences" on tree trunks left on the river banks by the current. He made use of Cubism in his paper houses, created schemes of movement with a palette knife, and approached organic aspects in abstract paintings that at the same time alluded to sexuality. Further recognition came in 1958 for his serial art; here he broke the rigidity of order to render it blurry and rhythmical through dynamic and incisive and almost kinetic brushstrokes. In fact, though, it would be useless to follow the various phases of Weseler's painting (given that he has not become famous for his paintings) were it not for Dieter Schönbach who, watching the artist at work, recognised in the palette knife marks a more beautiful and lyrical use of colour. In turn, Weseler was influenced by the musician and began to "compose optically", as he himself as said, and to create seismographic lines and spiky, clustered structures, which Schönbach adapted for musical instruments in "conventional annotations". Bringing together music and painting, in which the music is highlighted by graphic scores, could only come about through fixed graphic sequences. Before the arrival of kinetic art, this problem was resolved by Weseler by noting rhythms on rolls of paper which he then allowed to undertake parallel, circular, and counterpointed movements. As acoustic expressions, Weseler's graphic "scores"

anticipate the "organic lives" he was to pinpoint later on in his "Atemobjekte": in fact these too seem to breathe, swell, and deflate. From 1962 to 1963 he realised for the first time his " Atmen für Töne", or Breaths as Sounds, as he himself described them. For these the organist Gerd Zacher allowed sounds to be emitted by the organ which increased and deflated in succession. In 1964 this so-called "Atemmusik", or Breath Music, was to become fully developed, as in Weseler's score for "Hoquetus per otto suonatori" by Dieter Schönbach.
It was just a small step from the "Atemmusik" to the "Atemobjekte" even though their realisation was distant from graphic forms. Weseler's pictures, which had once been observations of forests (at the time he lived near the Harz), now acquired a greater rhythmic order: they seem almost uneasy, as Weseler said of them, and took on physical and organic characteristics. They associate erogenous zones of the human body with smooth or hairy skin to become genuine "sculptures", heaps of hairy and bronzed wax mounted on kitchen shelves: and they had begun to breathe. The first "Atemobjekte" were his "Atemenden Ballons", or Breathing Balloons, plastic spheres of compressed air the wide diameter of which allowed the air to be expelled, though faster that Weseler had expected. In fact the air would not allow itself to be programmed and the deflation process took
too long. Weseler was obliged to look for another kind of "Atemobjekte". It is doubtful if he ever really looked for them. What counts is that he found them, and in his own bed: what a coincidence! In his rustic milieu, Weseler used to cover himself in a rustic way (he still does). He used furs as bedcovers and one day he must have noticed how his feet and arms thrashed about under the fur covers and how this created multiple movements on the surface. From that moment on, Weseler left behind pneumatic and painted objects and turned enthusiastically to his "Atemkunst", his Breathing Art. Since then he has distinguished between various kinds of fur. Yugoslavian and Icelandic furs are his favourites, together with those from Lüneburg. In a place near to his home he discovered a rabbit breeder who also bred Rex rabbits which allowed him to
shave them. Each of these kinds of fur, whether short- or long-haired, brown, white or grey, corresponds to a different moment. With architectural precision, Weseler set to work patiently on opposed coordinates. He related diagrams of movement on Cartesian coordinates and later adapted cam disks, primitive metal circles that are activated by a motorised lever, to record movement on the skins. The forms of the movement obtained in this way relate together speed, speed changes, and rhythm through a new manifestation which the artist has always considered to be organic, as when in 1962 he stated that "through refining and elaboration, a tremor can act like a burst of laughter that shakes you, erotically stimulates you, or that makes you jump in agony. A certain rhythm emerges in harmony with human breathing, a need for meditation". (Kunsthalle Düsseldorf 1966, Kunstverein Hannover 1967, etc.) What has made his works famous in the world of art is its dualism of life and the decline that is articulated: existences pulsating in fur that gradually becomes dusty. At times Weseler accompanies them with the sounds of cicadas or the chatter of children. They are placed in unusual contexts, such as near a child's bed, where they appear to be violent monsters, or he puts them in birdcages as an expression of imprisonment, or else he hangs them near to each other to give the impression of proliferation. What is unrefined also demonstrates itself to be a degeneration.

Weseler also states that, while he was still living with his parents, he used to induce particular states of mind and to artificially govern the states of sleeping and wakefulness with the help of chemical substances. In 1950 he was at last taken into hospital for a deep analysis so as to determine if there was some other cause, as his parents feared. From that time onwards artificial controls also imbued his "Atemobjekte" with a new life.
Weseler's objects began to find themselves in wider contexts. In the Leverkusen museum in 1969, as part of a show called "Räume", he created an artificial landscape overflowing with the past and present, one that was secret and disturbing, abstract yet organic, a "post-human landscape", as he himself described it, a land "after the explosion": in closed, black-lined rooms there lie, on soft foam rubber covered with refuse, burnt trees with black-grey rubber snakes and a crater made from the elastic rubber of balloons (the material of condoms), objects of sharp foam rubber, and all breathe, swell, and deflate, accompanied by sounds that boil, creak, and rasp. The actions evoke shock more than the objects themselves do. With regard to this, he has also collaborated with musicians from the theatre of cruelty. In 1968 he literally perforated manikins and, with a mixer, poured a chemical fluid inside them that became polyurethane and filled them to suggest some kind of catastrophe. Similarly, in 1969 he placed a protuberance on the neck of a live woman. A swimming cap, moving around inside a bowl, seemed to suggest that a swimmer was exhaling her last breaths from below. He constructed a machine inside the head of a fur-covered doll that he had bought in a flea market in
Paris so that the toy, that once had been loved, had a crazed look to it. At the 1970 Edinburg Festival he organised, as he had done before at the Kunstverein Göttingen, an "Atembanquett", a Breathing Banquet, in which the food would remain blocked in the guests' throat. The courses were placed on a wooden table: a swollen Rex rabbit in clay bowls and bread in which the animal breathed. A bizarre meal accompanied by the sounds of cicadas which, according to Weseler, intensified "the erotic tension of the objects". He repeated the experiment with manikins and polyurethane, this time with a disgusting grey mass vomiting out of pigs' heads placed on a divan covered with a white canvas. In recent years Weseler has, in his own way, made strange whatever things pass through his hands: they breathe, move, gush and dart from a coffee cup, or from a jewel box, an iron cask, or a drain (the show "Jetzt", Cologne 1969) into bread or potatoes, under handkerchiefs, into corners, nooks and crannies. For his large "Atemwände", or Breathing Relatives (seen for the first time in 1968 in "The History of Fire" at the Kiel opera house), formed from compact lines of foam rubber cones like those used to isolate radar installations, he recreated rhythms of movement that transformed the extremely rigorous order of the walls into an organism. In this way he created a synthesis of artificiality and (apparent) life. Recently he has brought his works about proliferation into the field of photography too, though they remain as alienated as ever. He photographs beautiful nude women and glues on illustrations of insects, then corrodes the resulting photos with acids to create terrible parasites.
In a certain sense Weseler represents a German variant of kinetic art, though one that does not limit itself to a hymn to machinery as does Tinguely. At the same time he does not love the refined kinetic illumination of Schoeffer. His kinetic works, organic and animal, are like meditations; they know the vulnerability of life, its evanescence, and the existence of invisible, disturbing beings. However, they also know about jokes, uproar, and the grotesque. This is an artificially made human comedy, with all the madness of today's "humanity".
-- Helga Meister