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Published on: 14th February 2020
1st October 2019
After giving world leaders gathering on 23rd September in New York for the UN Climate Action Summit a taste of the toxic air pollution that affects ninety per cent of the population in cities worldwide, artist Michael Pinsky’s groundbreaking installation Pollution Pods will next be seen on Brownsea Island in Dorset.
The series of interlinked geodesic domes were also visited over the weekend by climate activist Greta Thunberg who heard first hand from Michael Pinsky how the atmosphere in each recreates the air quality, smell and temperature of five major cities – Tautra, London, Beijing, São Paulo and New Delhi.
Pollution Pods will be on Brownsea Island from Friday 25 to Tuesday 29 October in a collaboration between Activate, producers of Inside Out Dorset, the county’s biennial outdoor arts festival, and Cape Farewell, the artist-led organisation that uses culture to change how people think about climate change, and is supported by the National Trust.
“This art installation raises very important and pertinent questions about our climate and to be able to present it in such an iconic natural location as Brownsea Island offers a place where we can think about our impact locally and globally,” says Kate Wood, Executive & Artistic Director of Activate. “We are very pleased the National Trust is welcoming us and that the Arts University Bournemouth and local schools are engaging students in the project.”
Olivia Gruitt, Visitor Experience and Volunteering Manager at Brownsea Island, adds: “We’ve done a lot of engagement around the impact of climate change on Brownsea Island, especially around sea levels rising, and we’re pleased now to be shining a light on air quality. The National Trust is taking significant measures to reduce its carbon footprint but everyone has a role to play in this and we hope that this thought-provoking project will help people understand that the air we breathe needs protecting from excess pollutants.”
Each dome contains a carefully mixed recipe that safely emulates the excessive quantities of ozone, particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide and carbon monoxide that pollute these cities. As visitors pass through the five cells, moving from dry and cold locations to hot and humid, for a few minutes at a time they experience, at no risk to their health, the sensation of breathing toxic air that is a daily reality for millions of people.
“In the Pollution Pods, I have tried to distil the whole bodily sense of being in each place,” says Michael Pinsky. “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.”
The presentation of Pollution Pods on Brownsea Island has been part-funded by Dorset Council and supported by the Cultural Hub, 60 local school children will visit the installation on 25 October to discuss environmental issues and actions to end climate change with outreach workers from Kings College London.
Students from five undergraduate programmes at Arts University Bournemouth, which has also part-funded the installation on Brownsea Island, will undertake a number of projects inspired by Pollution Pods.
“AUB is proud to be partners in bringing this significant artwork to Brownsea Island in order to draw attention to the issue of global pollution.” says Professor Mary Oliver, Dean of Media and Performance at AUB. “We will be using the pods to develop a range of work that is informed by the installation and its placement in an area rich in natural beauty.
“Our students will graduate into a world where continued polluting energy production has left our planet on the brink of serious irreversible damage. Art is one of the most resonant forms of communication and currently artists are playing a significant role in shaping the debate around climate change and what we can do to abate its harmful effects.”
In western cities such as London, one in five children suffer from asthma; while in cities such as Delhi in developing countries, more than half the child population has irreparable stunted lung development. Many of the airborne toxins in cities such as Delhi and Beijing are created by industries fulfilling orders for the developed world.
A walk through the Pollution Pods reminds us our world is interconnected and interdependent and the price of the western world’s need for ever cheaper goods is the ill-health of our planet as a whole. In this installation visitors can feel, taste and smell the environments that are the norm for a huge swathe of the world’s population.
Michael Pinsky’s work has been experienced by more than 20,000 people since it was launched last year at the Starmus Festival in Norway.
Did you know?
Pollution Pods has been generously supported by the following organisations: Airlabs, Arts Council England, Build With Hubs, Cape Farewell, International Flavours & Fragrances Ltd, National Trust, Norwegian Research Council, Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), The Norwegian Institute of Air Research (NILU), University of East London.
To plan your visit see www.nationaltrust.org.uk/brownseaisland