Breathing By Numbers – An Interview with Julianknxx

By October 4, 2022

Film. London.

This is an interview with London-based poet, filmmaker and artist Julian Knox, Julianknxx. His new film ‘Breathing By Numbers’, is being expanded into two live shows at Brixton House taking place on the 5th & 7th October 2022.

Credit : Julianknxx, Black Corporeal (Breathing by Numbers), 2022, Untitled, courtesy of the artist © Studioknxx

Enchanting music surrounds you and the words ‘We and life fell from the stars’ appear on the screen, this is the start of Julianknxx ‘s new film Breathing By Numbers, the third instalment of the Black Corporeal series. He explores important themes such as air pollution, environmental racism and the impact this has on black and brown bodies in and amongst London. 

Each of the works within Black Corporeal are based on a series of poems written by Julian between 2015 and now. The poem in which Breathing by Numbers is based on was initially written in response to the killing of Eric Garner and the Black Lives Matter wave that was happening at that time. Through ‘adding to the poem, the melodies, editing and speaking to people’ Julian began to develop his vision and build a team around him which could facilitate this. The film was shot over three days, and 2 months later was premiered at Whitechapel Gallery’s London Open 2022

Julian explains: ‘The poem is where I start, then the imagery and visuals are built during production to work with the poem and then the final piece is found in the edit.’ This highlights the dedication and talent of Julian and his team, to create such a powerful piece that explores crucial topics in such a short space of time.

Neuroscientist and friend of Julian’s, Araceli Camargo, became a vital part of the development of the film. Her research work, as well as a conversation they both had about pollution as a stressor in London, prompted the exploration into how light, sound and air pollution tends to be higher in places where black and brown people live.

Credit : Julianknxx, Black Corporeal (Breathing by Numbers), 2022, Untitled, courtesy of the artist © Studioknxx

During their conversation Julian was introduced to Rosamund Adoo-Kissi-Debrah and the incredible work she is doing. Rosamund is a health and air quality advocate, founder of the Ella Roberta Foundation and mother of Ella Adoo-Kissi-Debrah, the first person in the world to have air pollution listed as a cause of death on her death certificate. 

From there he reached out to Rosamund asking if she would like to sit down with him to which she agreed and recounted her story. Her voice running through the film is powerful, and laments the reality of air pollution and the effect it can have on black bodies, which makes it even more poignant when the refrain ‘I don’t want no trouble’ repeats throughout the film, sung by singer and songwriter Jacob Banks.

Julian breaks it down: ‘When you think about the black experience there are so many nuances. You have to deal with: air pollution, police brutality, environmental justice, these are some of the things that come to mind. When you think about Rosamund, a black woman having to fight to get her daughter’s death certificate to say the cause was air pollution because the government refused to, she could have easily given up, but she persisted, and she fought for it.’

Throughout the film the soundtrack is a grounding, accentuating and complimenting the visuals, whilst the choir throughout ‘channels a collective experience.’ Julian highlights: ‘Every time we speak up it’s almost like we’re troubling the water, making trouble, but we’re just speaking the truth of what’s happening around us. We don’t want no trouble, we just want to live.’  

Credit : Julianknxx, Black Corporeal (Breathing by Numbers), 2022, Untitled, courtesy of the artist © Studioknxx

Dance is also a large part of the film, layered in and amongst different environments. Julian explains the thinking behind the dance throughout the film stems from the ideas presented in the book ‘The Body Keeps Score’. The book suggests that human bodies hold memories, hold trauma, therefore dance was used as a way ‘of expressing the things that [he] couldn’t put language to.’ Highlighting pain, mimicking breath, and expressing emotion, the movement of the human body is a vital aspect of the film.

Julian speaks about the impact of filming dance in two juxtaposing environments. The built environment, in front of a London estate, where you are constantly confronted with the abandonment of time, as you see places ‘you used to know either they get knocked down or regentrified’ and the beach environment, ‘a liminal space where nothing’s there.’

Julian emphasised that ‘when you think about it, most black people that live in England are migrants. We’ve moved from other countries to come here but it can still feel as if you haven’t arrived because you don’t feel fully accepted.’ Therefore, the dancing performed at the beach represents ‘finding this in-between state of movement’. 

In asking Julian whether there is more to come for the Black Corporeal series, he explains:

‘When documenting the black body in our lived environments, in our day-to-day lives, there’s so much to talk about. Us breathing is one thing, social justice is another thing, there are just too many things to touch on. So yeah, there is definitely more to come. It’s probably something I’ll do for the rest of my life.’

Credit : Julianknxx, Black Corporeal (Breathing by Numbers), 2022, Untitled, courtesy of the artist © Studioknxx

Breathing by Numbers is being shown at Brixton House on the 5th and 7th October. On the 5th, Julian will be reading some of his poems and performing with the choir and the 7th will be an exchange of ideas between friends and collaborators. 

The Brixton House viewing is described as more of a presentation, it’s not only about the film. It’s a coming together where ideas are presented and the themes of the film are discussed from a critical point of view. It should be a fascinating, enlightening and an educational presentation of this wonderful film.


Thank you to Julian Knox for taking time to speak with me, his team and also Brixton House. Click here to get your tickets.


Keep up to date with the creatives behind the film: 

Director: Julianknxx (website and instagram)

Producer: Tobi Kyeremateng

Director of Photography: Pablo Rojo

Featured Vocalist: Jacob Banks