Faint with Light: Marianna Simnett in conversation with Sarah Wilson

Breath is the cornerstone of vitality. In a year marked by chaos and disorder it is little wonder then that breath and breathing have come to charge the public consciousness: from the coronavirus emergency, a respiratory disease of the lungs, to chants of ‘I can’t breath’ following the killing of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement.

In this conversation, artist Marianna Simnett speaks with Professor Sarah Wilson about her work Faint with Light, 2016, an audio and light installation which records the artist deliberately inducing her own unconsciousness through a self-taught method involving hyperventilation.

The work, which the artist considers a self-portrait, consists of a large metal wall housed with bars of blinding LED strips of light that rise and fall to the sound of the artist making herself faint. In dialogue with Sarah Wilson this conversation unpacks the ideas behind the work within the context of the artist’s broader practice.


00:40 Marianna Simnett, Wing-sleepers, Night Tube Map 2017. Photo: Alastair Fyfe, 2018

10:13 Marianna Simnett, Faint with Light, 2016, SEIZURE installation view at Copenhagen Contemporary, Copenhagen, 2019. Courtesy: the artist. Photo: Anders Sune Berg

10:53 Marianna Simnett, viewers watching Faint with Light (2016) at Zabludowicz Collection, London, 2018. Courtesy: the artist. Photo: Tim Bowditch

11:13 Marianna Simnett, viewers watching Faint with Light (2016) at Frans Hals Museum, Haarlem, 2019. Courtesy: the artist. Photo: Maarten Nauw

14:45 Marianna Simnett, The Needle and the Larynx (video still), 2016. Courtesy: the artist and Serpentine Galleries, London

21:13 Marianna Simnett, Worst Gift (video still), 2017. Courtesy: the artist and Matt’s Gallery

22:30 Marianna Simnett, Birds scream at the top of their lungs in horrified hellish rage every morning at daybreak to warn us all of the truth, but sadly we don’t speak bird, 2020, Silent – Listen performance still at Engadin Art Talks, 2020. Courtesy E.A.T./ Engadin Art Talks Stiftung

23:37 Marianna Simnett, The Bird Game (film still), 2019. Courtesy the artist, FVU, the Rothschild Foundation and the Frans Hals Museum

29:34 Marianna Simnett, Covering, 2020, Beyond the Pain installation view at Galerie Stadt Sindelfingen, 2020. Courtesy: the artist

Marianna Simnett is an artist living and working in Berlin. She is a graduate of the Slade School of Fine Art (MA 2013) and Nottingham Trent University (BA 2007). She has shown internationally including solo exhibitions at the Kunsthalle in Zürich, MMK in Frankfurt and New Museum in New York.