Air Clean Up

What Are Pollution Pods?

May 10 2018 Read 634 Times

Have you ever wondered what air quality is like in different cities around the globe? London has its fair share of pollution problems – this year, it took only a matter of days for parts of the UK capital to exceed the recommended annual threshold of certain contaminants. On the other hand, metropoles in less developed parts of the world suffer from far more damaging airwaves.

Thanks to the ingenuity of British artist Michael Plinksy, those living in or visiting London were able to sample some of the more polluted atmospheres from around the globe without even leaving the city’s postcode last month. Pollution pods, an interactive art exhibition installed at Somerset House, allowed attendees to experience what really dirty air feels and smells like.

An innovative project

Open from the 18th to the 25th April, the installation featured five interlinked domes which aimed to recreate the air from five cities around the globe. Not only has Plinksy recreated the temperature and air quality of each city, but he has also introduced the dominants smells of the place, too.

For example, the New Delhi pod is home to stifling heat and suffocating industrial smells. Sao Paulo, a city famed as an urban jungle and characterised by the ethanol which fuels much of its transportation, evokes that very scent. London has its own place in the exhibition, too. With an aroma named “Living Diesel” inside the UK capital’s dome, it highlights the air quality crisis caused by traffic in the city, notwithstanding measures implemented by Mayor Sadiq Khan to improve air quality and reduce transport-related pollution.

At the other end of the scale, there is also a recreation of the air on the peninsula of Norwegian island Tautra Island. Employing air purifiers to strip away all contaminants, it is touted as "the cleanest air you can find anywhere in London” by a spokesperson for Somerset House.

Raising awareness

The point of the pollution pods project is to raise awareness around the issue of climate change and to prompt people to see that the time for change is now with regards to this global issue. While the quality of the air in the New Delhi pod may seem unbearable to Londoners, it’s an everyday ordeal for those living in the Indian capital. What’s more, it’s a problem at least in part caused by the consumerist habits of the western world.

The installation was initially commissioned by the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim as part of the Climart project, which looks into how visual art as a medium can affect how people perceive grander environmental problems. It was brought to London for a short week-long residency to coincide with last month’s Earth Day on Sunday 22nd April.

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