It takes 154,000 breaths to evacuate Boston

Art & Design, Walking

How can we measure fear in public space?

The project is an attempt to measure our post-9/11 collective fear in the individual breaths that it takes to traverse these new geographies of insecurity.

The Boston emergency evacuation system was installed in 2006 to demonstrate the city’s preparedness for evacuating people in snowstorms, hurricanes, infrastructure failures, fires and/or terrorist attacks.

In 2007, I ran the entire evacuation route system in Boston and measured the distance in number of breaths taken. These tens of thousands of breaths were archived in a separate podcast and sculptural installation.


Lead Artist

Catherine D’Ignazio


  • “Experimental Geography.” Richard E. Peeler Art Center, DePauw University. Greencastle, IN, 2008.
  • “Experimental Geography.” Albuquerque Museum, Albuquerque, NM, 2009.
  • “Foster Prize Exhibition.” Institute of Contemporary Art Boston, Boston, MA, Winter 2009.
  • “Experimental Geography.” Colby College Museum of Art, Waterville, ME., 2010.
  • “Walking Sculpture 1967 – 2015.” Decordova Sculpture Park and Museum, Lincoln, MA, 2015.


  • “It Takes 154,000 Breaths to Evacuate Boston: A Networked Running Project.” Space and Culture 10, no. 3 (August 2007): 312–14.
  • Included in Thompson, Nato, and Independent Curators International. Experimental Geography. Brooklyn, N.Y.: Melville House, 2009.
  • Included in Exhibition Catalog for Rafael Lozano-Hemmer: Vicious Circular Breathing. Borusan Contemporary, 2014.
  • Featured in the book Rethinking the Power of Maps by Denis Wood, 2010.


Foster Prize, Finalist, Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, MA, 2009.

Media References

  • “Anxiety Art’s Escape Route.” Rhizome, Miguel Amado, May 2, 2007.
  • “A Decade of Turmoil.” The Providence Phoenix, David Scharfenberg, September 7, 2011.
  • “Mapping our way back.” Art21 Magazine, Liz Sheehan, May 18, 2010.



Boston, MA


  • Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) Faculty Professional Development Grant
  • Institute of Contemporary Art Boston