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The Last Breath Society
Institute of Contemporary Arts
24 – 25 October 2020


Courtesy Martin O’Brien


The coffin is sealed shut; the faint sound of coughing can be heard from inside, ringing out through the night ... The Last Breath Society gather to breathe together, to mourn their own life and rehearse for the inevitable.
– Martin O’Brien

Over the course of a durational performance, artist Martin O’Brien continues his exploration of mortality through his pain-based practice.

Born with a life-shortening disease, Martin has recently surpassed his life expectancy – as such, the artist is now living in what he terms ‘zombie time’. For The Last Breath Society (Coughing Coffin), Martin has gathered a society of sick queers, old queens and others thinking about death to collectively resist the loneliness of decay in a room full of coffins.
Conceived and performed by Martin O’Brien, with live sound from Suhail Merchant. Produced by Joseph Morgan Schofield, and production managed by Thomas Wilson. Martin O’Brien works across performance, writing and video art. His work uses physical endurance, long durations, and pain-based practices to examine what it means to be born with a life-shortening disease. He has shown work throughout the UK, Europe, USA and Canada. This included Tate Britain, Spill Festival of Performance (both London), Kapelica Gallery (Ljubljana), Performatorium Festival of Queer Performance (Regina), Venice Week of Performance Art, In Between Time Festival of Contemporary Performance (Bristol), Grace Exhibition Space, Abrons Art Centre (both New York) and as artist in residence at ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archives (Los Angeles). Martin has cystic fibrosis and all of his work and writing draws upon this experience. He is currently lecturer in Performance at Queen Mary University of London. He recently surpassed his life expectancy and is enjoying life as a zombie.
The Last Breath Society (Coughing Coffin) has been commissioned as part of Waiting Times, a Wellcome Trust funded research by academics from Birkbeck, University of London and the University of Exeter. Waiting Times offers a fundamental re-conceptualisation of the relation between time and care in contemporary thinking about health, illness and wellbeing.
 

Programme

Saturday 24 October, 4 – 8pm 
The Last Breath Society (Coughing Coffin)
This performance contains needles, blood, bloodletting, nudity and asphyxiation. Audience members are welcome to come and go through the space during the performance.

Sunday 25 October, 2 – 5pm 
Zombie Time: duration, performance and death 
A talk drawing on queer death and performance studies. More information to be announced shortly. 

Sunday 25 October, 12pm  –  8pm 
An installation of the physical and sonic remains of The Last Breath Society (Coughing Coffin) is open to visitors.