OSLO FORM LAB 2018

Experiencing Air Pollution through Art: Pinsky’s Pollution Pods


By Elnaz Azadpour.

Pollution Pods, Michael Pinsky, art installation, London, 2018. Photo: Flickr

Pollution Pods is an exhibition by Michael Pinsky, a British artist, who has shown concern for the environment we live in through his artworks employing technologies especially in public places. This installation is a series of five or six interconnected geodesic domes which contain carefully mixed recipes emulating the relative presence of ozone, particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide and carbon monoxide which pollute the air. The toxic gases from domestic and industrial sources increase the rate of global warming and have a direct effect on human being’s health. The exhibition has been shown in Trondheim and London so far.


Visitors begin their journey visiting the exhibition with experiencing the clean air of Tautra in Norway and then they go to the other domes including London, Beijing, New Deli, Cairo and São Paulo, cities which experience some of the worst air qualities in the world. As visitors walk through the Pods, the air quality changes and get more polluted. The artist Michael Pinsky suggest,


I want that effect that one has when you get off a plane so you get on the plane in London you get off somewhere in the tropics and you open a door and you go wow this is really a different sensation so I isolate each dome so you move from cold to hot and to very different types of pollution so it has a very strong immediate visceral impact on the visitor.

This exhibition is particularly relevant to London, a city which was selected as a host for this artwork, because this city is experiencing an increasing pollution due to the invisible pollutants like nitric oxides.


Air pollution is one of the environmental issues caused mainly by human beings. The pollution that we are experiencing nowadays is to a high degree due to the increasing appetite of capitalist consumerism. The problem, however, is not felt the same by different people- it depends also on whether you are living in a developed or developing country.


People in developed countries are more likely to breathe a quite clean air while people in countries such as India are living in such unhealthy weather conditions due to the industries that are serving mostly to fulfill the demand of the developed countries. Human Beings prefer to be delivered their desired products and services with cheaper prices - this, however, is made possible at the cost of nature’s and other people’s health. For instance, it is estimated that each individual in London is losing about 16 months of her life because of the air pollution while in India this statistic is a staggering 4 years.


This work has been commissioned by Norwegian Technical and Natural Sciences University - NTNU as part of Climart which is a four-year project examining what underlying psychological mechanisms are involved in producing and receiving visual arts aiming to unite natural sciences and visual arts.

This installation showcases the complex interconnected and interdependent nature of the world. Essentially, what Pinsky strives to achieve through his Pollution Pods is for the visitor to think more when they are buying products they really do not need and challenge perceptions of, and actions around, climate change. The exhibition provides its audience with a meaningful experience practically breathing, feeling, and smelling the polluted air of different places all at the same place therefore enabling them to form a better idea on the current state of a polluted world - it is one thing to read about pollution, but entirely different thing experiencing it, perhaps this is the true potential of this artwork.


References


Davis, Heather, and Etienne Turpin. Art in the Anthropocene: Encounters among aesthetics, politics, environments and epistemologies. Open Humanities Press, 2015.

Pollution Pods - Climart, https://www.climart.info/pollutionpods/


Michael Pinsky: Pollution Pods, https://www.somersethouse.org.uk/whats-on/michael-pinsky-pollution-pods.