We all know that Beijing has a rep for being one of the most polluted cities in the world and it's something the capital's keen to shift attention away from. Well, with that in mind, look away Beijing authorities, because this latest installation at London's Somerset House features interactive exhibits where visitors can breathe in Beijing levels of smog, along with air from Tautra (Norway), London, New Delhi and São Paulo.
Designed by British artist Michael Pinsky, these 'pollution pods' are climatically controlled to replicate the air temperature and diverse pollution levels from each of these locations, with each containing varying levels of ozone, particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide and carbon monoxide.
Almost reminiscent of a wine tasting – if wine tastings were actively harmful – visitors can traverse through each geodesic dome and sample the nuanced polluted environments of each city. New Delhi's 'dominant note' is reportedly old cars and industry. London's is a unique scent called 'living diesel'. São Paulo has eye-watering levels of ethanol. And Norway's clean-smelling air is the seeming palate cleanser between all that.
Designed to raise awareness of climate change, this work aims to shine a light on air pollution as one of the severe environmental, and human, consequences of modern-day consumerism. However, while visitors have the option to gawk at the pollution in Beijing, São Paulo or New Delhi, this exhibit offers more of a chilling reminder that there are millions around the world who don't have the luxury of popping in and out of a dome for fresh air.
By Leanne Wong