Lastgaspism: Art and Survival in the Age of Pandemic is a collection of interviews, critical essays, and artist portfolios that consider matters of life and death having to do with breath, both allegorical and literal. Bringing into mutual proximity the ecological, political, public health, and spiritual crises of our time, this book considers the compounding nature of these events and their impact upon one another. Whether seen in the police choke murders that gave rise to the “I Can’t Breathe” slogans of the movement for racial justice, the life-taking and life-remaking COVID-19 pandemic, the white supremacist revolts propelled by fear of demographic suffocation, or the climate emergencies that have instituted near-permanent chaos, the act of gasping for breath is starkly exposing the either/or that stands before us: either we breathe or we die.
Through the recognition of indigenous wisdom, demands for institutional reform, proposals for new social arrangements, the rethinking of care work, the adoption of Buddhist-influenced practices of mindfulness and compassion, and other creative modes of engagement, cultural workers are responding to the most pressing issues in contemporary life. Lastgaspism offers a framework to help us make sense of the interlocked crises of the unfolding present and asks with critical optimism what can happen in this time of transition.