Most of the pollution in our cities is invisible. We can smell it, feel it, and on occasion (thanks smog!) see it, but visualizing the extent to which grit and fumes blanket our cities is difficult to do. Dmitry Morozov, a media artist living in Moscow, created a contraption that sniffs out pollution in the air and turns it into glitch art.
The project began after Morozov was pondering how to turn air data into art. “I wondered, what can I do with sensors, a small printer and the polluted air in Moscow?” says Morozov. He built his portable, Bluetooth-connected device out of sensors that measure dust and various gases like CO (carbon monoxide), CO2 (carbon dioxide), HCHO (formaldehyde), and CH4 (methane). The sensors translate air data into volts, and an Arduino algorithmically translates those volts into the shapes and colors you’re seeing.
Each image is translated to a movie, sort of like a real-time visual pollution meter, but Morozov’s device allows you to take a snapshot of a certain moment and print it out. Think of it as an artistic grading system for air quality.
Morozov traveled around Moscow measuring various areas. The worst spots, not surprisingly, were on busy streets during rush hour. Morozov says gasoline quality isn’t as regulated as in the U.S., so the stuff coming out of the exhaust pipes can produce some crazy colors and images. The brighter the image, the dirtier the air. Green in the images indicates clean air (mostly found in parks), but those aren’t as intriguing to Morozov as the glitchy burst of colors you find with smoke or melting plastic. “The more pollution I get, the more beautiful the images are,” he says. “It’s a little bit ironic.”
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