Any conversation about the environment inevitably comes to the automobile. Necessary for the movement of people, goods and services, automobiles are essential to the lives of most urban residents, but with these benefits come serious consequences: polluted air, dangerous roads, noise and congestion. Increasingly, we look at the world through the window of a car, airplane, or other transportation vehicle, less and less aware of what’s going on outside. The connection between the automobile, life and the air in the city is explored through Cloud Car, a car fitted with special effects equipment that produces a cloud of mist, enveloping car and rider. In-person guides stationed near the car distribute fact sheets and encourage passers-by to discuss the environment, automobiles and traffic in the city.
Automobiles and air
The most devastating impact of the automobile is its effect on air quality. Automobile pollution causes cancer, respiratory problems and heart disease. Research suggests that air pollution is responsible for 310,000 premature deaths in Europe yearly (BBC News, Feb 21 2005). Beyond the direct damage to our bodies from auto pollution is the fact that automobile emissions are contributing to global warming. Atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2), a heat-trapping gas, have increased by one third since pre-industrial times, and a majority of that increase is caused directly by the burning of fossil fuels. The effects of this global warming are widespread and are happening now: rising sea levels, habitat destruction, extreme weather conditions and the spreading of infectious diseases. According to the National Resource
Defence Council, cars emit a huge amount of CO2, 20 pounds per gallon of gas burned.
Significance of research to public architecture
In the 1950s and 60s, Yves Klein’s idea of Air Architecture challenged the definitions of art and architecture. Klein was interested in the ways that humans can use science and technology to conquer the ephemeral, to the point of turning even air and fire into building materials. Klein sees science and technology as the saviour of architecture, promoting new forms and structures made from sculpting the air and other ‘immaterial-materials’. (in Peter Noever and Francois Perrin’s Yves Klein Air Architecture, 2004). Klein’s work was very influential. In the late 1960s several artists including Robert Barry started producing work questioning the limits of art. Barry’s work, known as ‘invisible’ art included The Inert Gas Series (1969) in which a specific amount of gases such as neon, xenon and helium are released ‘from measured volume to indefinite expansion’ in the Mojave Desert. Lucy Lippard observed in Six Years: The Dematerialisation of the Art Object that ‘novelty is the fuel of the art market’, and at the time of The Inert Gas Series, this ‘fuel’ is was being burned at a rapid pace, constantly stretching the boundaries of the definition of art. These works paved the way for the contemporary use of ephemeral materials in public art and architecture, for example Diller + Scofidio’s Blur Building (2002). As a public artwork, Cloud Car uses immaterial-materials for aesthetic reasons, but also to focus attention on the issue of air and the automobile. By creating a cloud of mist, air is made tangible and visible to the public. Cloud Car presents the automobile as an object to be observed, but also highlights the car as not only a vehicle of transportation, but as a space of contemplation and exchange.
- Andrea Polli, is an artist, Associate Professor in Fine Arts and Engineering and Director of Interdisciplinary Film and Digital Media at The University of New Mexico, US. Polli’s work has been presented widely in venues including the Whitney Museum of American Art Artport and The Field Museum of Natural History and has been reviewed by the Los Angeles Times, Art in America, Art News and others. In 2007/2008, she spent seven weeks living in Antarctica: 90degreessouth.org
- In 1985, Chuck Varga joined with a group of five like-minded individuals and founded the theatrical rock band GWAR. Varga created the character Sexicutioner, who starred in eight major productions of GWAR that toured the US and Europe in over 1000 shows. He also wrote scripts, designed and built costumes and sets, wrote and designed over a dozen graphic stories for the GWAR comic, and co-authored two feature-length films including the Grammy-nominated Phallus in Wonderland.chuckvarga.com
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