The exhibition features works by nine video artists from eight countries: Albania, Argentina, Chile, China, France, Iran, South Africa, and South Korea. Exploring identity, both individual and national, and historic events – from military coups and political upheaval to mass migrations – and their iconography, the varied works engage, each in its own way, with the Western hegemony and with colonialism and its ramifications. This is an opportunity for an encounter with different cultures through the eyes and dreams of international artists. All the artists on view engage, in one way or another, with an exploration of their identity and culture of origin, and their videos provoke thought and empathy.

Cultural and geographic mobility, as well as exposure to different aspects of humanity, are paramount to the Lemaître Art Collection. The collectors, Isabelle and Jean-Conrad Lemaître, have one of the most important video-art collections in France. They started collecting art in the 1970s, and since the mid-1990s have focused on video art, with a passion for moving pictures as a pithy expression of the spirit of the time. The collection is comprised chiefly of video works by young artists who explore different facets of society – political, psychological, and social – by poetic or expressive means.

The title of the exhibition refers to the need to take “a deep breath” when watching the works on view, whether they are political or present personal traumatic events and existential fears. At the same time, it wishes to draw attention to the intimacy formed during the viewing experience, in the dark, between viewer and artist. The fine line between the documentary and fictional, coupled with contemporary digital technologies, enable the medium to be used as a tool of social criticism which, at the same time, is informed by the breathing space offered by art, which is quite different from that of TV programs or social-media clips.

The videos in the exhibition all share a wish to create an encounter with the dark or repressed aspects of culture, society, or the individual. When all is said and done, this is also an encounter with our own dark side, which both demands and enables a deep breath of air.