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Glenda León’s elegant online videos seem to ponder the universe and the self

The one-to-three-minute-long videos, which date from 2006 to 2019, were mostly made by digitally manipulating photographs. The show is divided into two virtual galleries, “Breath” and “Delirium,” each featuring three videos. Sometimes the results are obviously contrived, as when puffs of wispy vapor coalesce into a universally recognized image in “Addressing Clouds.” But the most effective vignettes are so subtle that at first glance, they might seem unaltered.

In “Inner Sea,” small waves break on the shore, but the sound associated with this action actually comes from León’s lungs. The ground itself appears to inhale and exhale in “Every Breath (Earth),” whose illusion is conjured with sound and rhythmic in-and-out zooms.

“I aim to connect the viewer with nature, but first of all with his/her self. I would like them to become aware that every second we are connecting with the whole universe through our breathing,” León explained in an email. (Her comments have been lightly edited.)

The videos were originally made to be projected, in physical installations, not to be viewed on computer monitors and tablets. León would like them to be seen in as large a format as possible, but that’s not her primary concern about the online exhibition.

“I think they will work better on a computer than on a phone, because of the scale difference,” she writes. “But what concerns me more is the possible absence of sound (very often we watch videos muted) and the distraction of daily life around us that usually museums or cinema rooms don’t have. The videos are visually and acoustically very subtle, so I really hope that the audience turns the sound on and finds a quiet moment to watch them (or instead that my videos lead them to a peaceful moment).”

If the crux of such pieces as “Inner Sea” is simply attentiveness to nature and our place in it, León hopes that such insight could also lead to pro-environmental action. Clouds, leaves, birds and insects dance through her videos — the artist studied ballet for years — but “Mirage II’s” butterflies ultimately fall dead, crashing into and breaking a layer of glass. León calls this transparent surface “the delirium glass of what we fail to see.” The video has an ecological message, she notes, but “also represents the unexpected strength of those who may seem weak.”

The show’s curator, University of Maryland doctoral candidate Patricia Ortega-Miranda, chose the videos with León’s intent in mind. But she also noticed that the “Breath” pieces are particularly relevant during a global respiratory-disease pandemic.

After selecting the videos, which include “Delirium I” and “Delirium II,” Ortega-Miranda was struck by another timely element. In mid-July, The Post published an article on “excited delirium,” a scientifically dubious theory used by some U.S. police forces to justify brutal treatment of suspects who supposedly experience such frenzy.

León calls the coincidence “astonishing,” but her focus is on land, ocean and air, not the street. “What my videos want to say is that we can change the world through our breathing, we can breathe together with the sea, with the sky, with the trees and become one with them. It’s just a matter of inner silence and opening the heart,” she writes.

“I know it’s hard, but I always hope you can come to a place, to an experience created by an artist or to nature itself, where you rise above the suffering, and evolve spiritually.”

Breath & Delirium: Selected Works by Glenda León

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