A series of domes containing pollution from cities around the world was placed in the Norwegian city of Trondheim and London earlier this year as part of an investigation by psychologists to ascertain whether art can change people’s perception of climate change.
The idea is the brainchild of British artist Michael Pinsky’s, who created the Pollution Pods installations — a series of five connecting domes that recreates the pollution from London, Beijing, São Paulo, New Delhi and Tautra in Norway. He decided that “smelling is believing,” and set out to give visitors an experience they would never forget.
Pinsky filled five interconnected geodesic domes with carefully mixed recipes that emulated ozone, particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, and carbon monoxide — found in the air in some of the world’s major cities. Entering a first plastic-domed pod, visitors then passed through increasingly polluted cells, from dry and cold locations to hot and humid, giving them a firsthand experience of the air quality of that city.
The UK installation formed a circle in the center of Somerset House courtyard, one of London’s most renowned art centers. Visitors passed through the climatically controlled pods to compare the quality of different polluted global environments. The five Pollution Pods were linked, so that visitors were forced to pass through all of them to exit the installation. This visceral experience encapsulated the sense that the world – and our own impact on it – is interconnected.
The release of toxic gases from domestic and industrial sources increase the rate of global warming and have a direct effect on our health. In the West, in cities such as London, one in five children suffer from asthma, while in developing countries such as Delhi, over half the children have stunted lung development and will never completely recover.
Those living in the developed world have environments with relatively clean air, while people in countries such as China and India are being poisoned by airborne toxins created from industries that fulfill orders from the West. The experience of walking through the pollution pods demonstrates that these worlds are interconnected and interdependent. The desire for ever-cheaper goods is reflected in the ill-health of many people in the world and in the ill-health of our planet as a whole. “Within this installation people will be able to feel, taste and smell the toxic environments that are the norm for a huge swathe of the world’s population,” says Pinsky.