The Chinese Man Collecting Air Pollution to Make a Brick Is One of Many 'Pollution Artists'

Amidst international conversations about climate change, Chinese artists are turning pollution into an artistic endeavor.


As COP21, the annual Conference of Parties that gathers world leaders to discuss climate change, hopes to drive the climate change discussion forward, a performance artist in Beijing is doing his part to bring awareness to the notoriously polluted air of the Chinese urban center. This past July, “Nut Brother” a 34-year-old artist announced his plans to vacuum the dust from Beijing’s air. And that’s precisely what he did for the next 100 days with the use of his industrial-strength vacuum. He then proceeded to mix the dust with clay and make a brick out of, quite literally, thin air.

As he told Quartz, the next step “is to give the brick to a construction site, and make it part of a new building in Beijing. He would like to let the brick disappear into the concrete jungle, he said, ‘just like putting a drop of water in the ocean.’”

This is not the first time Chinese pollution has inspired artists. Earlier this year, Xiao Zhu, a Chinese company that makes air filters for homes and cars, turned the pollution rising from factory smokestacks into their own canvas, projecting children’s faces onto the rising smoke. The stunt hoped to raise awareness of the deadly effect of air pollution on children, using the tagline “Clean the air. Let the future breathe again.” And last year, following the appearance of 16,000 dead pigs floating down a river in Shanghai, Chinese contemporary artist, Cai Guo-Qiang created a solo show called “The Ninth Wave” at Shanghai's contemporary art museum, the Power Station of Art, which featured a life-sized boat filled with wool and styrofoam-crafted animals that appear sickly and dying.

If these art projects have something in common, it's the way they understand that while government regulations and international conferences are necessary, what we need is a broader cultural shift that’ll help us change our outlook on air pollution and climate change.

Speaking at COP21, President Barack Obama stated that the main goal of the next two weeks was “not simply an agreement to roll back the pollution we put into the skies, but an agreement that helps us lift people from poverty without condemning the next generation to a planet that is beyond its capacity to repair.”


--

Manuel is a NYC-based writer interested in all things media and pop culture. He's a regular contributor to The Film Experience and Remezcla. His work has been featured in Mic News, Film Comment, and Model View Culture. He also has a PhD but hates bragging about it. www.mbetancourt.com

'Upstreamism': Your zip code affects your health as much as genetics

Upstreamism advocate Rishi Manchanda calls us to understand health not as a "personal responsibility" but a "common good."

Sponsored by Northwell Health
  • Upstreamism tasks health care professionals to combat unhealthy social and cultural influences that exist outside — or upstream — of medical facilities.
  • Patients from low-income neighborhoods are most at risk of negative health impacts.
  • Thankfully, health care professionals are not alone. Upstreamism is increasingly part of our cultural consciousness.
Keep reading Show less

In U.S. first, drug company faces criminal charges for distributing opioids

It marks a major shift in the government's battle against the opioid crisis.

George Frey/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Politics & Current Affairs
  • The nation's sixth-largest drug distributor is facing criminal charges related to failing to report suspicious drug orders, among other things.
  • It marks the first time a drug company has faced criminal charges for distributing opioids.
  • Since 1997, nearly 222,000 Americans have died from prescription opioids, partly thanks to unethical doctors who abuse the system.
Keep reading Show less

Scientists create a "lifelike" material that has metabolism and can self-reproduce

An innovation may lead to lifelike evolving machines.

Shogo Hamada/Cornell University
Surprising Science
  • Scientists at Cornell University devise a material with 3 key traits of life.
  • The goal for the researchers is not to create life but lifelike machines.
  • The researchers were able to program metabolism into the material's DNA.
Keep reading Show less

Calling out Cersei Lannister: Elizabeth Warren reviews Game of Thrones

The real Game of Thrones might be who best leverages the hit HBO show to shape political narratives.

Photo credit: Mario Tama / Getty Images
Politics & Current Affairs
  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren argues that Game of Thrones is primarily about women in her review of the wildly popular HBO show.
  • Warren also touches on other parallels between the show and our modern world, such as inequality, political favoritism of the elite, and the dire impact of different leadership styles on the lives of the people.
  • Her review serves as another example of using Game of Thrones as a political analogy and a tool for framing political narratives.
Keep reading Show less