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Multiple Artists

The Air Around Us 

Nov 4, 2022 - Feb 16, 2023

The Air Around Us is an arts and engineering initiative that aspires to increase the visibility of poor air quality conditions across the Phoenix metropolitan area.



[Slow Violence is] … a violence that occurs gradually and out of sight, a violence of delayed destruction that is dispersed across time and space, an attritional violence that is typically not viewed as violence at all. — Rob Nixon, Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor


The Air Around Us is an arts and engineering initiative that aspires to increase the visibility of poor air quality conditions across the Phoenix metropolitan area. The project comprises a series of glass sculptures shaped like organs—brain, heart, and lungs—that illuminate from within. The color displayed within the organs will visualize real-time air quality conditions from a network of sensors. In this system, red indicates poor air quality, yellow means moderate air quality, and green signifies good air quality. In addition to SMoCA, other installations in the series will appear at the i.d.e.a museum and The Sagrado Galleria. Each site has a different sculpture, all of which receive real-time air quality data locative to each place. The predictive modeling system at each site will also display an image from each institution that slowly falls apart. 

Each sculpture is driven by a triangulation of data relative to the physical geography in which it is presented. In addition, an artificial intelligence-driven predictive modeling system represents the community’s air quality trajectory into the future if action is not taken to improve the air quality. A goal of this initiative is to contribute to the data narrative, while creating opportunity for change and actionable responses to poor conditions. 

Conversations about the physiological impacts of poor air quality often center around lungs and pulmonary systems, but The Air Around Us aims to expand on this perspective to include understanding on how other significant organs in the body are also impacted. This project intends to look at the wellness of the region as a geographical body through the creation of a network of installations driven by real-time air quality data being sensed by a network of county and Arizona State University air quality sensors. It is the hope of this initiative to create greater awareness about both the slow violence of poor air quality pervading our region, but also to draw attention to the equity issues surrounding the reality that poor air quality disproportionately impacts vulnerable populations in Phoenix metro communities. 

It was important to the artists to keep the carbon footprint of the project as low as possible, working with sustainable materials, including recycled glass and low-powered electronics. They partnered with local artists and fabricators at The Melting Point and Weld House, who use locally sourced materials to reduce shipping footprints. 

Visit the project hub for The Air Around Us for additional information and to learn more about all of the sites for the project. 

The Air Around Us is led by Professor Max Bernstein. Presentation at Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art (SMoCA) is organized by Julie Ganas, curator of engagement and digital initiatives. Project is funded by Arizona State University’s Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts. 





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