top of page

Theater of metamorphosis

Ph Veronika Pokoptceva

Theater of metamorphosis

Breath of a whale - performance ‘8 times wilder’
Inspired by scientific studies about breath and by my artistic work of On urgency along the Adriatic sea in Italy, (project sull’Urgenza) in 2022 I have created the solo 8 times wilder.

In the piece I embody both a woman and a whale, and I am confronted with the dilemma of killing the beached whale and, eventually, with which scientific approach.

After studying the physiology and behaviors of whales I focused the performance on the difference of respiration between whales and humans. Before inhabiting the waters, whales were terrestrial mammals, with lungs.


Along the course of evolution, even if they moved into the waters, whales conserved lungs, needing direct contact with the atmosphere to breathe.

Unlike humans beings, whales have a voluntary respiration, meaning that a part of the brain remains always active. Inspired and practically informed by the scientific and artistic value of this, I built a dramaturgy that was based on different patterns of respiration, pushing the capability of my body of being without oxygen, or the diaphragm to shake and produce sound and movement. Looking for a connection with the whale on a physical level, trying to be a whale, and to breathe like her, I feel human.
This is for me an embodied component of ecological consciousness that performing arts can offer to humanity and to the world: embody other physical schemes, becoming other than human.

After this performance I identified breath as a key element that can put in relation the work of the performer with ecological issues and consciousness.

Breath of a yak - performance ‘monstrous ‘
To deepen the encounter between performers and the animal kingdom, at the end of 2022 I directed and performed the ensemble pièce monstrous inspired by the novel ‘Ad Bestias’ by Francesca Sarah Toich.

Set in a dystopian scenario, under the pressure of an ecological dictatorship, women are coactively inseminated with foetuses of endangered species. We have worked with masks created by the Sartori family in Padova (IT). The masks have allowed us to research in the organism the connections between humans and animal characteristics. Throughout the performance, each character catalyzed a metamorphosis, transforming themselves into the creature they were pregnant with.
Another metamorphosis occurring during the piece is the one of the character Hilde, the nurse of the clinic where women are inseminated. She is the the most fanatic character, fully believing in the regime and its methods and voluntarily becoming food for endangered beasts Years earlier, Hide gave birth to a yak, voluntarily offering her womb for this miraculous conception.

She has two extreme drives: on the one hand an extreme devotion to human beings at the service of a greater ecological system which involves a self sacrifice and self-metamorphosis. Inspired by the fact that Hilde was pregnant with a yak, I began studying ethological features of the yaks and their evolution. I found out that they have enormous lung cavities to adapt themselves to high altitudes.

Hilde had to breathe differently: her monstrosity might lay on a very generous breathing.

What is the connection between breath and monstrosity?

What is the effect of a generous breathing in my body?

Which physical and imaginative limits does it bring to me?


This exploration brought me to work with a wide open mouth that allowed in turn to experience a huge sense of tenderness and a sense of opening and beauty, besides causing unexpected effects on vocal and textual work.

The focus on the yak breath and lungs allowed the character of Ilde to access her radical fanaticism from a root of beauty, poetry and love for so-called beasts, rather than from a root of closure and anger.

Breath as a connector between performance

and ecological consciousness
By modulating the performer’s voluntary breathing and adopting breathing patterns of other species, both physically and imaginatively, the performer's body can convey (evoke - become) something/someone more-than-human. The performer becomes transhuman, adapting to the human body the characteristics and adaptations of other species. This process of embodiment stages the drama of humans, the limitation of their life and by doing this it inspires a profound awareness of one's human nature.
In fact, the dialogue, confrontation, imitation, with other species might free humans themselves from their own limitations because this comparison makes human's boundaries blurred, non-deterministic and poetic. A human is not only a human. It is also yak and it is also whale.
Besides being crucial in cellular nutrition, breath bridges the unconscious push to survive and the conscious possibility to modify the breath. “Like the equator, the diaphragm is the dividing line of the two great halves of being: the conscious and the unconscious, the voluntary and involuntary, the skeletal and visceral” (Todd 1937).
Moreover, breath carries a profound ecological consciousness, poetics and sensitivity: it lies in the interface between the inside and outside of the human body. Air is a byproduct of plant life, we are literally invaded by other species at every single breath that we take. To breathe is to live off something that other organisms have produced and to transform it within our metabolism.

This is what Prof. E. Coccia defines as Interspecific Architecture (Coccia 2021).

For these reasons, breath is a key-tool to practically and philosophically approach the complexity of ecology and ecological issues.

Breath connects the tangible and intangible of our body as well as it connects the human species to other species and to the rest of nature. This is an integral part of the ecological consciousness that I intend to explore and to offer to artists and audience.

bottom of page