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Air Drifts installation, Oslo Architecture Triennale 2016


Interdisciplinary Research Group: Kadambari Baxi, Janette Kim, Meg McLagan, David Schiminovich, Mark Wasiuta. In collaboration with scientists at NASA Global Modeling and Assimilation Office, Maryland.

Air Drifts, an interdisciplinary multimedia project on transboundary air pollution, explores how localized particulates drift beyond national air space, establishing new zones of toxic responsibility. Industrial and urban emissions float minute air-borne particles, such as black carbon, dust, nitrogen dioxide, ozone, and sulfates. These aerosols can migrate extreme distances impacting cloud formations, weather, and climate. As they drift from city to city, and from nation to nation, our collective commons, separated ground conditions, and climate futures are marked, coded, and saturated by international pollutants. Through visual documents, the project highlights how air may defy boundaries but it is also a product of territorial distinctions. And it argues whether in our immediate surroundings where we now have relatively clean air, or in distant cities that face increasingly polluted air, we all share pasts and futures of toxins.  


Air Drifts research group collaborates with NASA to explore its climate models tracking global aerial pollutant paths. NASA's digital simulations of global air pollution are striking forms of data synthesis and visualization, they are as much an aesthetic tour de force as they are scientific tools. Through interviews with NASA scientists, Air Drifts asks about the creation of a singular image compiled from thousands of disparate data sources collected from sensing and collecting apparatuses dispersed around the globe.


Air Drifts research group’s work to date includes a multimedia exhibition including digital videos, physical models and large-format drawings. The videos feature interviews with scientists in front of NASA Goddard’s super large (hyper-wall) projection of atmospheric animations. The physical models reconstruct vertical zones across selected regions and depict more concretely what the animations suggest: air pollutants that begin on the ground enter different national spaces, regimes, and regulatory systems. The drawings combine urban air space from international cities and connect trade, consumption, and emissions data into seamless vertical atmospheric panoramas. Collectively, in art + science + documentary formats, Air Drifts components formulate ways of seeing our atmosphere embedded with fleeting signs of climate change yet to come, and reframe emerging questions of national and global environmental responsibility.

The project excerpts were exhibited at the Oslo Architecture Triennale 2016.


> MORE INFORMATION on AIR DRIFTS video, drawings and models is available on request by email.

Air Drifts Video, 2016

Air Drifts Models, 2016

Air Drifts installation, Oslo Architecture Triennale 2016