Can Art be an Instrument of Change? Looking at Michael Pinsky’s Pollution Pods
Written by Vedika Pathania, a second-year student.
Pinsky is one of a larger group of artists who are using their art to respond to the threat of climate change…
Written by Vedika Pathania, a second-year student.
Who is Michael Pinsky?
Michael Pinsky is a British artist who has developed creative and challenging works in galleries and public areas through his international projects. He often begins fellowships and assignments without a specific purpose, working with the local resources and people and enabling the environmental, cultural, and political surroundings to define his working approach, integrating the roles of an artist, urban designer, activist, researcher, and citizen. Pinsky is one of a larger group of artists who are using their art to respond to the threat of climate change.
At some point or the other, we’ve all wanted to travel the world and breathe in the air of different cities. In all honesty, seeing the statistics about air, that might not be the best idea. On that note, if you’ve ever wondered what the air quality is like in various cities throughout the world, Pollution Pods are the answer.
To understand more about them, we need to familiarize ourselves with the idea of ‘Immersive Art’.
What is Immersive Art?
Art, as we know it, is something we see. From Vinci’s Mona Lisa to Van Gogh’s Starry Night, the way we are acquainted with art is through galleries and museums. However, immersive art is taking over slowly. Immersion is when you become completely absorbed in something, losing track of time and losing your sense of self in the process. When it comes to immersive or experiential art, these pieces immerse their audience in a full-body experience that includes sight, touch, and occasionally even scent. Artists can construct worlds that surround the viewer, making them an active part of their experience, using New Media methods such as video projection mapping, sound technology, VR headsets, and light shows.
It’s not like a painting, which is a framed image, or a sculpture, which is a form open to deliberation from a variety of perspectives but remains fixed as the focus of the viewer’s gaze. Rather, this 360-degree vastness links physical immersion to virtual reality, which immerses the viewer in a world that spans in all directions. Immersive art is hence bigger than what you see.
What are Pollution Pods?
Think of 5 circles, arranged in a circle, connected by lines. That is what Pinsky’s Pollutions Pods look like from the top. Pinsky’s work on the domes was originally for the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) in Trondheim for Climart. Since then, it has also been presented at the Somerset House in the United Kingdom. Over 30,000 people have seen the artwork in London, since its debut in Tautra, Norway. It has also been seen in Geneva, Bremerhaven, Vancouver, Manchester, Dorset, Melbourne, and New York. They made headlines as part of a creative drive for urgent action against air pollution at the COP25 UN climate conference in Madrid, Spain.
Each of these five geodesic domes contains carefully crafted environments that simulate various global atmospheric conditions. Visitors begin in Tautra, Norway, breathing in fresh air before travelling to London, New Delhi, Beijing, and Sao Paulo, all of which have some of the world’s worst air quality.
How do they work?
Every dome simulates varying levels of ozone, air pollutants, nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide, and carbon monoxide in polluted sites. New Delhi, where the air is packed with a thick cloud of airborne particles, follows London’s hidden but fatal nitrogen output. It is reported that the average Londoner, subjected to the existing pollution levels loses up to 16 months of their life, whereas for a citizen of New Delhi, pollution could cut short the life of a citizen by about 4 years.
Visitors experience shortness of breath after just a few minutes inside pollution pods, but there’s nothing dangerous in the air. To imitate the air quality of some of the world’s most polluted cities, safe perfume blends and fog machines have been used.
What is the purpose?
The goal of the pollution pods project is to increase public awareness about climate change and to encourage people to recognise that now is the moment to act on this global issue. While the air quality in the New Delhi pod may be intolerable to Londoners, it is a daily occurrence for people who live in India’s capital. This work investigates air pollution as one of the numerous environmental and human effects of modern consumer behaviour, which is caused by a wide range of domestic and industrial products and processes.
Pinsky’s art encourages viewers to explore the intricate and interrelated nature of our planet, as well as to question how people think about and respond to climate change.
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Image source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:1_peopleinlitpod-mp.jpg
By: Margy CultureVulture, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons