Just Breathe is a film conceived and directed by artist Mig Dann and shot in the Old Melbourne Gaol in 2021. Just Breathe was filmed by cinematographer Jordan Kaye, with choreography by Zoë Bastin and sound score by Josephine Mead. The performers in the film are Tricia Page, Leslie Turnbull, Jude Worters, Zoë Bastin and Josephine Mead.
Just Breathe references nineteenth-century women prisoners who were masked to prevent communication. This experience mirrors the ways in which women have been silenced throughout history and echoes our current mid-pandemic situation, where we must breathe under a protective mask, and invokes the injunction to allay anxiety in extraordinary times.
Dann created a series of reimagined silence masks to bring to life the stories of these women. As Dann states, “through reimagining the silence masks, I am drawing attention to the patriarchal strictures that were placed on women throughout nineteenth-century society, and to a lesser degree, today. The masks talk to many points throughout time and history––from Neolithic stone masks found near the Dead Sea, to the iron scold’s mask used in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Britain to punish ‘nagging women’, and the Venetian beak-masks worn by medieval plague doctors as protection against the Black Death––bringing viewers back to the present in loops.”
Just Breathe has been supported by the City of Melbourne Arts Grants.
Just Breathe was exhibited in the South Magdalen Laundry at the Abbotsford Convent, Collingwood in June 2022. Photographic documentation by Josephine Mead. This exhibition was supported by the City of Yarra Arts Grants.