‘Pollution Pods’ art installation opens at St John’s College

The ‘Pollution Pods’, designed by artist Michael Pinsky, were inaugurated in St John’s College on the 21st of October. This innovative installation was created with the intention of increasing public consciousness regarding the effects of air pollution on the environment and human health by allowing spectators to experience first-hand the effects of living in a polluted environment.

“…the pods allow spectators to experience first-hand the effects of living in a polluted environment…”

The installation is composed of five geometric domes, each simulating the atmospheres of highly polluted cities including London, New Delhi, São Paulo, and Beijing, as well as the clean air of Tautra, Norway for reference. The pods use sophisticated air filters as well as gases and chemicals to recreate the specific composition and odours of the polluted air of each city. 

Michael Pinsky is an accomplished visual artist who employs a range of media to delve into the socio-political stakes of a location. He is often critical of the impact of humankind on the world, and especially of our behaviour as a society.

The artist praised Oxford for the availability of sustainable transportation methods, such as bicycles and buses: ‘For many cities, air pollution remains a pressing concern, yet it is only a select few that are taking proactive measures to combat this critical issue, and Oxford stands proudly among them. […] Through my installation, I aim to draw attention to the significant detrimental effects of air pollution on our health, urging a collective reconsideration of our urban mobility patterns.’

“…the artist praised Oxford for the availability of sustainable transportation methods…”

The installation that is now in the St John’s College Front Quad has been travelling around the world since 2017, and has been exhibited in prestigious locations such as the WHO offices in Geneva, the UN Headquarters in New York, COP 25 and 26, as well as the Somerset House in London.

Michael Pinsky’s ‘Pollution Pods’ help promote and enhance comprehension of the urgency of climate action, and inspire communities to promote cleaner air and sustainable solutions. 

Climate activist Greta Thunberg, after her visit of the installation at the UN in 2020, described it as “an incredible exhibition, It’ll really bring attention to these problems, and if people can experience this, people from all around the world, how these people live everyday, it will bring lots of attention and people will be more encouraged to deal with these problems.

John Fulljames, Supernumerary Fellow at St John’s College, said “The Pollution Pods raise important questions about our climate, exploring the ways in which art can change people’s perception of climate.” Professor Dame Sue Black, President of St John’s College, stated the college is “committed to supporting its local community […], and looking forward to raise awareness of the impact of air pollution on health”.

The ‘Pollution Pods’ are part of the “Everything is Connected” initiative, a series of creative events across Oxford taking inspiration from the fact that everything is connected in the natural and human world. 

In St John’s, visitors are also offered two supplementary exhibitions in the Canterbury Quad, the first one about the college’s own sustainability programme, and the second being a photography exhibition featuring images from recent prestigious awards.

A private view of the ‘Pollution Pods’ was arranged for college members the day before the opening. The installation is free to visit, and open to all members of the public from Saturday 21 October to Sunday 5 November from 1pm to 5pm on weekdays, and 10am to 5pm on weekends.

Image Credit: St John’s College