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The Art Science Interface: making York's air pollution visible. York's Air Map

Nattress, Clare ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-3296-4264 (2022) The Art Science Interface: making York's air pollution visible. York's Air Map. The Art Science Interface.

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Airborne particulate species less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter known as PM2.5 are considered to be the most deadly form of air pollution, contributing to millions of premature deaths per year globally. However, due to the small size of these damaging airborne particulate species drawing public attention to the issue is challenging. This study aims to increase public awareness of PM2.5 through an art-science collaboration. Conceptual artist Nattress uses her bicycle as a performative tool to pedal on low and high infrastructure routes around the City of York, UK. The roads around the circumference of the University of York and York St John University are known highly polluted areas that are often heavily congested.

The bicycle was equipped with a MiniVol TAS sampler and a Plume Labs Flow 2 sensor gathering data over the course of three months. The filters collected were extracted and analysed by atmospheric scientist Bryant through an established method used for PM2.5 filter samples, using ultra-high-performance liquid chromatography, high-resolution mass spectrometry to identify known compounds within the samples. The process of collection and extraction were documented, and the filters also photographed and investigated under a microscope.

The data and information gathered have been incorporated onto a digital map of York to reveal collection locations and routes as well as pollution concentrations and compounds present within filter samples. Combining this data with photographs and video snapshots of each performance ride will improve the public’s ability to see for themselves pollution within their city. As an artist, I am interested in the embodied experience of bicycling using theories of performativity and materiality. The body becomes a site for academic enquiry and as Robin Nelson states, ‘embodied and subjective ways of knowing can lead to new and interesting insights.’ How does the body attune to air pollution? Can we smell it, and can we taste it? How does it interact with our bodies whilst cycling? This other than human collaborator is interconnected with our bodies, we are intertwined.

This interdisciplinary collaboration has also increased our understanding of environmental hazards that face cyclists and the benefits of a healthier environment through improved infrastructure. This study has been beneficial to help monitor and creatively disseminate exactly what cyclists and the public are exposed to and will help to inform effective solutions. Despite ongoing evidence that suggests art enhances our understanding of science and data, there is still much to analyse regarding impact and personal realisation for action. This research project and culminating exhibition provides initial evidence that the public engages with creative and visual outcomes that aim to make the invisible, visible.

Item Type: Other
Status: Published
School/Department: School of the Arts
URI: https://ray.yorksj.ac.uk/id/eprint/7333

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