Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Beijing Smog Captured By ‘Brother Nut,’ Performance Artist

Capital Cities


Brother Nut’s Vacuum: “The artist known as Brother Nut vacuumed the dust near
the Beijing National Stadium on Nov. 15, Day 87 of his project to turn the city’s pollution
into a tangible brick.” 
Photo Credit: Dong Dalu, CFP
Source: NYT

An article, by Chris Buckley and Adam Wu, in The New York Times says that a performance artist, nicknamed Brother Nut, has spent 100 days vacuuming the dust particles of Beijing, turning these into solid bricks, symbolizing the accumulated smog that Beijing residents breathe in and accumulate in their bodies.

Smog, a word describing a mixture of smoke and fog, is today mostly photochemical smog from automobile exhausts. In “Amid Smog Wave, an Artist Molds a Potent Symbol of Beijing’s Pollution“ (December 1, 2015), Buckley and Wufrom write about the portrayed image of what can be described as a toxic red clay brick:
Beijing has been swamped for days in a beige-gray miasma of smog, bringing coughs and rasping, hospitals crowded from respiratory ailments, a midday sky so dim that it could pass for evening, and head-shaking disgust from residents who had hoped the city was over the worst of its chronic pollution.
But “Brother Nut,” a performance artist, has something solid to show from the acrid soup in the air: a brick of condensed pollution.
For 100 days, Brother Nut dragged a roaring, industrial-strength vacuum cleaner around the Chinese capital’s landmarks, sucking up dust from the atmosphere. He has mixed the accumulated gray gunk with red clay to create a small but potent symbol of the city’s air problems.
Brother Nut is neither crazy nor misguided. There is no escaping the smog of Beijing, a byproduct of coal-fired plants, automobiles, trucks and a society dependent on industrialization, yet with little pollution controls. This was the case with western nations, bringing to mind London’s Great Smog of 1952, where for five days (December 5–9, 1952), London was engulfed in a thick smog that was responsible for killing upwards of 12,000 individuals. It was only later (in 1956 & in 1968) that the British government brought in legislation to clean its air.

Such was also the case in the United States, particularly in Los Angeles (July 26, 1943) and New York City (November 24, 1966)—both notable and notorious smog days. The U.S. started to take air pollution seriously in 1963, but it is only in 1970 with the passage of its Clean Air Act (last amended in 1990) that it had more comprehensive legislation. For example, it was in 1970 that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (E.P.A,) was set up.

Thus, China is following a historical trend, of allowing industrialization to settle before taking action. Even so, the Chinese government can’t wait too much longer. A scientific paper, published by Berkeley Earth, says that outdoor air pollution is responsible for 1,6 million deaths in China each year. China needs to get serious about pollution controls and environmental protections, if it is to reduce (and hopefully eliminate) its serious life-threatening smog problems. If it pus as much effort and intelligence into this problem as it has done in the last few decades in scientific and economic progress, then it will likely succeed.

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For more, go to [NYT]

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