WORK 15 / SOCIETY / POLLUTION

POLLUTION 01/12 Every morning I grade the overall air quality I experienced the previous day. In order to do so I use the following values: 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 12 corresponding to 0%, 20%, 40%, 60%, 80%, 100% of what I perceives to be level of pollutants in the air. These values then are just an estimate of what I have perceived to be my exposure with pollution throughout the day. In this respect it is not a scientific picture of this exposure but rather an indicator of daily peaks. Only the higher peak is reported; if throughout most of the day I have not been exposed to any pollution but in the twenty minutes I was out in the city there was a lot of traffic what it is reported is the level of pollution I have experienced in this latter part. The values are later recreated in a physical context sequentially and for 30 seconds each by a smoke machine; the higher the value, the higher is the intensity of smoke the machine emits. In a physical context the smoke acts like the incense given out by a priest, yet it is odorless, translating only visually the level of pollution which I have been subjected to in the course of my life project. (Fig. Screenshot of a month of air quality. Previously the resulting data was visually simulated changing the transparency of a white frame over a period of 12 minutes. Later I opted to keep the numerical data intact and ready to be utilized by a smoke machine via a microprocessor).

POLLUTION 02/12 The recording of the daily air quality is yet another project where I act as a sensor. As a human sensor I have become very aware of my surrounding and of what other humans may just give for granted such as the traffic. In this work however I not only keep track of the traffic emitted by others like when walking through a big city but also the very pollution I generate. It is mostly in the clean mountain air of my property in the alps where I built the project museum that I have emitted the most pollution. Using my welding machine and driving with an old tractor my equipment up the field where the structure is located but also cutting the grass with a trimmer and generally attempting to do some maintenance have been what has mostly caused the very pollution I have myself inhaled. With time however I have preferred to give up machineries and learn to use traditional methods such as the sickle (Fig. Picture showing me after I bought my property in the mountains trying to do the minimal maintenance especially by roads and electric cables. At the beginning of the project I was always rather opposed to the use of machineries. I started to differentiate between those that are manual and those that instead fully replace the human effort. At last I became skilled in the use of the former right in the moment that more and more fully automated machines began appearing as an alternative).

POLLUTION 03/12 This work has come to signify almost the death of machineries such as my old diesel tractor and all the equipment which due to climate change has been replaced with electric equipment. Generally however I have preferred to do my work by hand using traditional tools and only later started adopting chainsaws and so forth to facilitate the building of the project museum in the alps. I did so right in the moment in which this sort of equipment begun to be limited by European nations seeking zero emissions. If I would have waited a few more years the building of the museum wouldn't have been possible (Fig. Screenshot showing me transporting the iron bars to the museum site. While producing some emissions, this small size old tractor was the key to make my installation possible. It was a medium that served me in my physical effort not only of loading it and downloading it but also of building the structure by hand and transporting there also the tools to do so. In this respect rather than judging my building in terms of how ecological it is, I have judged considering whether I replaced my human effort or facilitated it. In some cases I have been skeptical about the new Eco-friendly alternatives; they not only generate a new form of consumerism but in several instances they come to replace the human agent rather than enhancing it).

POLLUTION 04/12 While I have never really being able to afford to buy electric driven equipment, I kept using my old equipment also in the belief that some natural resources ought to be sacrificed at least for more spiritual kind of undertakings. Also these undertakings not only bring others closer to nature and in the long run they come to preserve the surrounding nature but more importantly they can inspire others to live in accordance to nature and this respect to be self-sufficient. This self-sufficiency is in my opinion what ought to be ultimately sought when considering a sustainable future. Moreover I often perceived the switch to emission free technologies as just a way not only to generate a new wave of consumerism but also as a form effortless technologies mostly addressed for richer people. Beside I am aware that these new technologies will bring forward a new paradigm in the history of humanity. With this new paradigm unforeseen consequences will emerge along with new kind of environmental and social issues (Fig. Screenshot showing me walking in a Russian city trying to cover my nose for the amount of pollution generated by the old cars there. Often times while not in western countries I have experienced such heavy traffic unlike the soft and smell free traffic of the electric cars sold in the west. Nonetheless in these non-western countries I experienced a higher level of humanity).

POLLUTION 05/12 Beside the bad air I have been generating while pursuing the construction of the project museum, my life in general has been rather emission free. I have been living almost without making use of a car my entire life. While in Sweden or the Netherlands I often choose to walk and became myself more the victim of insane traffic especially as these countries gave up on their welfare system becoming more capitalist oriented. The pollution I experienced living with my first kid in Shanghai however found no match. It was the year preceding the World Expo 2010, and the city was completely under reconstruction for the international event, resulting in a very high level of dust in the air, particularly on my way to work to Tongji University on the other side of town. To survive the bad air pollution and bring my young son to the relative few open spaces in parks, I had to learn a network of small streets keeping me mostly away from the many old and highly polluting Volkswagen Santana taxis ironically sold to China by the very country Germany so much pushing for a green revolution (Fig. Picture of my son while in a Chinese park. Not only parks were a great way to learn about Chinese culture but also they became the only daily escape to nature in the mist of savage pollution all generated for the sake of modernization).

POLLUTION 06/12 Value 1 represents a day in which I experienced absolutely no pollution. This might also means that I spent the entire day in nature and perhaps it was windy given that when it is for example sunny and no wind often there are more cars and motorbikes with people wanting to enjoy the weather, eventually polluting it. Value 1 can also mean however that I spent my entire day indoor due to very bad weather like rain. The air indoor is not always that fresh yet during these days I have not been experiencing any direct exposure to pollutants. Also whatever is the weather outside I always try to go at least for some hours out to breath some fresh air and it is very rare that I spend a whole day inside. Seldom it can mean that I have been all day out in nature like hiking in my native alps where however I am most likely to do physical work and use some polluting machineries (Fig. Screenshot showing me with my twin sister in the very center of our native highland during a beautiful winter day with clear sky. While the highland generally offered pure air in comparison to the highly polluted lowland, tourists escaping the smog of the latter brought quite some traffic and pollution and ecological burden on the highland. The lucrative urbanization of my native highland motivated me to seek for a different and more intact location where to replant my roots).

POLLUTION 07/12 Value 2 represents a fairly good day with almost no pollution but perhaps some light traffic experienced at one point like a solitary vehicle in a remote and pristine nature. In this respect value 2 represent a brief encounter with a source of pollution that was however not so overwhelming and anyway allowed me to protect myself from it or avoid it all together by changing my itinerary. Value 2 can also at times occur during exceptional moments like a general strike or a lock-down following a pandemic (Fig. Screenshot showing me seating alone next to an empty Swedish lake after a day walking in a most clean air. Even if I am likely to do give up the use of machines and the going around cities, I am likely to keep up the breathing the bad air I cause lighting a fire in the middle of the winter. In this respect I also understand that the battle of the most radical environmentalists will eventually hinder me to do so. In turn this will hinder my genuine attitude to clean my own forest. Great fires are likely to occur once my and other people practice of heating up a dwelling with firewood will cease and forests will grow wild around inhabited villages. While I see the absurdity of such extreme ideology that has lost touch with the actual nature I promote again the approach of doing everything in proportion to our human scale and possibility for self-sustainment).

POLLUTION 08/12 Value 3 emphasizes some level of traffic perhaps experienced partially while crossing a busy intersection with my kids going for example to the hardware store in the industrial side of our Dutch town. In this case, rather than only using or avoiding to use my long nose when experiencing such traffic, I also simply evaluate it visually. Nonetheless due to the fact that I might be with my kids and they might be small to protect themselves I do my best to avoid trafficked areas. My movements then are confined to the greener and car free strips of a place where nonetheless a big truck at times might show up making it impossible for me to get my kids away from the pollution its diesel engine generate right at the height of the stroller (Fig. Screenshot showing an intersection of a German town I explored during my yearly crossing of Europe. In this occasion I try to go most gently down the continent attempting to explore places and connect with the environment I am crossing avoiding flying whenever possible and always dreaming to walk or bike as in my early years prior getting kids. I often park outside towns so as not to have to pay for parking and have to go through a belt of traffic before finding myself in a most sterile and pollution free city center. Trains would be my ideal way of traversing Europe but those alas have become too unaffordable).

POLLUTION 09/12 When for whatever some reason my exposure to the traffic is prolonged, I then label a day with value 4. Rather than just simply crossing a busy intersection I might then also get to walk along with the traffic such as crossing a long and busy bridge. Biking in the Netherlands for example I can choose all sorts of empty small roads but if I have to cross a major river my only way to do so is to bike to a bridge. There is usually a bike path there but the exposure to the traffic is unavoidable and so it is unavoidable to breath in the carbon dioxide emissions fatiguing on top of it. This is also the case in which I generate myself pollution using for example a trimmer to cut the grass in my alpine property (Fig. Screenshot showing me attempting not to inhale too much traffic in a city. While I learned in China the trick of holding my fingers next to my nose to protect myself to inhale too much pollution, my long nose characteristic of the alpine region where I come from has been broken since I was a child possibly after I was abused by my father. In this respect I can only breath through my left nostril and otherwise mostly use my mouth. This breathing issues which during my vane years as a teenager I tried to solve through a plastic surgery that could have made my nose smaller, might be in fact related to occasional migraines I learned to withstand without any pain relief).

POLLUTION 10/12 Value 6 is used in case of heavy traffic. Then I am most likely visiting bigger cities with also machineries working on some new buildings or working sites. Similarly value 6 is applied when I myself use a machine such as a chainsaw for a longer time throughout the day. Value 6 is also used when I get stuck in traffic especially when migrating back and forth with my family from the south to the north of Europe and vice-versa. In both cases the season is hot and there could be many lorries on the right most lanes as well as many cars heading to tourist destinations. Getting stuck in traffic has often presented itself in the machine regulated traffic in the Netherlands. Here however nitrogen, a more imperceivable pollutant generated mostly by farming it said to cause much of the air pollution. I might be able to detect the latter pollutant only by looking at the sky getting increasingly dim after many days without wind and rain. This phenomena however is more visible in the Northern Italian lowland during winter (Fig. Picture showing a visitor of my installation in the alps where a smoke machine was placed to reproduce the air quality I keep track of. The smoke machine buttong is replaced with a relay controlled by a microprocessor reproducing my data. This can be also reproduced by the actual visitors who can press the button according to the parameters).

POLLUTION 11/12 Value 12 is used in case of extreme traffic to which I have been exposed for a long time. It is also adopted in case I have been myself exposed to a toxic substance such as an epoxy varnish I used to paint floor in my barn. While always trying to take precautions I have been exposed to some level of bad air which overtime I learned to protect himself from. During the pandemic of 2020 I have for example decided to fabricate the textures of the project museum in my girlfriend Dutch house. I had no possibility to do so in Italy given all the traveling restrictions in place. I then started to cut metal and weld it in the backyard but given the amount of work the fumes I was generating right under my nose became too dangerous; I could not simply avoid them by trying not to inhale any air during the time of operation of my metal cutter or my welder. I then paused the work over the Christams holiday and out of some scrap material I found in working sites I built a shack with a fume aspirator system within it. (Fig. Screenshot showing me mixing concrete in my girlfriend's backyard. At least once a month I mix half a bag to cast the mosaics that are later placed in the project museum. Having to take care of my kids during the day I often do this procedure at night. Despite darkness and rain I always do it outdoor to avoid breathing any cement dust. Later I pour the concrete on the cast in a dedicated shed).

POLLUTION 12/12 In an exhibition context the generated mist reproducing the level of pollution I inhaled adds a level of mystery to the whole site. The latter become like a mystical ancient garden of a forgotten Chinese city or the city itself with lights and sounds attempting to trespass through it. It is rather similar in the aesthetics adopted by the artist Teresa Margolles who in "VaporizaciĆ³n" reuses the water used to wash the people found dead in Mexico city to make steam for the visitors to become aware of the issue. This work however does not have that stark political component. It's outcome is rather aesthetic but in fact it represents a rather hopeless topic, namely the speed with which the whole planet is been saturated with emissions. In this case it is the actual exhibition hall to become a small representation of the planet signifying with smoke the saturation of human generated smog (Fig. Rendering of the ideal exhibition in which the location of the smoke-machine has been red highlighted. From this location and based on the value of air quality it has to reproduce, the smoke would diffuse more or less intensively. As much as I would like to have access to a venue to experiment with such kind of installations, I have mostly decided to retain the data and see whether the opportunity will arise without wasting too much energy in making it possible especially in the initial phase of the project).