Pollution Pods: can art change people’s perception of climate change and air pollution?

Michael Pinsky,

Laura Sommer,
Researcher at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology

The artwork Pollution Pods is part of the Climart project, a wider research program that looks to explore the ways in which art can change people’s perception of climate change. Before presenting the Pollution Pods project itself, Michael Pinsky describes his process of artistic creation and explains how his work engages with the challenge of “representing the invisible”. The conception of Pollution Pods is part of a scientific work studying the type of reaction that climate art can bring about in audiences, thinking specifically about the extent to which artworks lead people not only to reflect on the reality of their daily lives, but also to alter their behaviour.

With Pollution Pods, the artist hopes to disrupt our embodied experience of pollution, which is generally that of a background phenomenon to which we grow accustomed. To do this, five geodesic domes, five closed physical spaces containing toxic air from diff erent cities around the world, are connected, forcing visitors to experience abrupt change in air quality. Pollution Pods is an eminently sensorial experience, whose objective is not so much to offer a privileged audience the thrill of danger safely contained, but rather to push visitors to reflect on their own contradictions and trigger behavioural change, as the embodied knowledge of pollution renders willful ignorance almost intolerable.