Bad Air In An Igloo

Air pollution? We often don’t even realize that in our day-to-day life. British artist Michael Pinsky set out to change that with an art installation at Somerset House in London. Thanks to five cupolas, visitors could inhale the air of different cities.

Earth Day 2018 at Somerset House
WORLD EARTH DAY 2018: The artist Michael Pinsky in front of his installation. (Photo: Peter Macdiarmid)

On the occasion of the World Earth Day on April 22, the installation “Pollution Pods” was opened in the courtyard of Somerset House in London. Five geodetical cupolas represented the air quality in five different cities on three continents: London, BeiJing, Sao Paulo, New Delhi and Tautra, a small Norwegian peninsula.
While walking through these cupolas, visitors experienced the clear, fresh air of Tautra as well as the thick smog of New Delhi. This way, visitors realized how clear London’s air is compared to Sao Paulo’s – even though it’s far from actually being clean. According to WHO studies, Londoners lose 16 months of their lives due to the air pollution, while it is even four years for the inhabitants of New Delhi.

Can Art Change Anything?

The artwork was originally commissioned by the Norwegian University of Science and Technology and first displayed in Trondheim. The goal of the installation was to find out how art can affect our behavior towards the climate change. The initiating university hoped that physical and emotional reactions of the visitors would lead to an increased awareness for the environment and air pollution.

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Imitating Smells

For the installation, Pinsky collaborated with experts that imitate various smells. Dutch company I Scent produced the odors of burning plastic, grass, wood and coal.
As part of the installation, a new flag was raised at Somerset House that changed it color depending on the current air quality.