This Art Installation Lets You Breathe in Pollution from London, Sao Paulo and Delhi

Pollution Pods render Somerset House
Pollution Pods render Somerset House | Courtesy Michael Pinksy

Art & Design Editor

To celebrate Earth Day, artist Michael Pinksy is inviting members of the public to compare the air of a typical polluted London street with that of other cities around the world.
How much can art influence our opinions? Even change our comprehension of something? Michael Pinsky’s Pollution Pods was commissioned to do just that, ‘to test whether art can really change people’s perceptions of, and actions around, climate change.’
Through a sequence of geodesic domes, Pinksy has accurately recreated the air quality, smell and temperature of five different cities: London, Beijing, São Paulo, New Delhi and Tautra (a remote peninsula in Norway).

Pollution Pods in Trodheim

Taking up residence in Somerset House’s neoclassical courtyard, the circular installation will invite visitors to experience the varying atmospheres of three continents.
As each climatically controlled pod is linked, visitors will have to pass through all five locations to exit, but more importantly to hopefully discern how our ‘human’ presence is inextricably linked and impacts upon the environment.

Entering New Delhi pollution pod in Trondheim

‘In the Pollution Pods, I have tried to distil the whole bodily sense of being in each place,’ says Pinksy. ‘For instance, being in São Paulo seems like a sanctuary compared to New Delhi, until your eyes start to water from the sensation of ethanol, whilst Tautra is unlike any air you’ll have ever breathed before, it is so pure.’
Tautra will feel dramatically different as Airlabs technology have removed all potentially harmful gases so the we can understand what it means to ‘breathe truly clean air.’

Hugo Verdoot and Annelies Michiels from Belgium entering Bejing’s pod in Trondheim

Apparently London’s air is cleaner than the most polluted city of the five locations, New Delhi. But was does that really mean? Well the average Londoner exposed to the type of pollution in the installation, ‘would lose up to 16 months of their life,’ which in comparison to a resident of New Delhi who would cut their life by four years, is relatively positive.*cough cough*.

Entering the ‘London’ pollution pod

Pinksy’s original commission by the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) was located in Trodheim for Climart.

‘We wanted to assess the potential for art to impact behaviour around climate change,’ said environmental psychologist and Climart co-ordinator, Dr. Christian A. Kloeckner.

‘There are some horrific statistics that Michael’s research has brought to light, such as the fact that children are much more vulnerable to the effects of pollution as they tend to breathe more through their mouths and don’t regulate their breathing to try to filter out pollution.’

Detail of air quality in each pollution pod

To reproduce the ‘crucial scents’ present in the pollution makeup of each location, Pinksy has collaborated with a number of olfactory specialists for the London installation that coincides with a number of experiences to celebrate Earth Day and consider how we are polluting the world.

Pollution Pods render Somerset House

Pollution Pods will be at Edmond J Safra Fountain Court at Somerset House from April 18 to April 24, 2018. Free.

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