Does The Blue Sky Lie?: Testimonies of Air’s Toxicities 2019-2022
“Does the Blue Sky Lie?: Testimonies of Air’s Toxicities,” is a 3 year project partially funded by The Prince Claus Fund, through which it is supporting art projects that engage with the idea of air and toxicity: its composition, movement, landscapes and scales of impact; paying special attention to its social connections.
About this edition
“Can man live elsewhere than in air?” – Luce Irigray
Air is the site of “smell, breath, wind, weather, air conditioning, air pollution, science, sound, oxygen, smoking —the
tactility of the atmosphere.” – Timothy Choy
To live in New Delhi is to be in constant and intimate communion with toxicity— being marked in a bodily way by where you live and what you breathe. What world opens up to us when we think of our bodies as a site for what Spanish architect and academic, Nerea Calvillo calls “attuned sensing”?
To “sense” in English carries the duality of meaning, both the monitoring enabled by technoscientific sensors, while also allowing for a more embodied understanding of the word: to sense as in to feel, to smell, to touch, to see. Moving beyond the world of AQI as the only reliable indicator of toxicity into the world of thinking about the air through attuned sensing allows us to understand the air as the site of all relationalities-across all scales. It becomes the medium that carries metabolic transmutations, our inhalations and exhalations, matter transformed into fire and released to the sky. It travels across all spatial scales- from the vastness of winds blowing across continents, to
the regional particularities of pollutants, down to the intimate exchange it has with the human body, as each breath brings air into the body’s interior. It holds memories of deep time, of fossilised algae, pollen, bacteria and organic matter in the diffused carbon monoxide, sulphur dioxide and particulate matter burned out of the fossil fuels propelling our lives.
Even as air permeates our bodies and mediates our encounters with human and non-human matter, the ways in which it enters our consciousness are limited. The philosopher Luce Irigaray has written ‘Air never takes place in the mode of an “entry into presence” . . . in air [the philosopher] does not come up against a being or a thing’. This lack of tangibility, as far as the air is concerned, means that in our collective psyche, it is embedded as something that is there, that is the space of our presence, but is itself marked by a kind of absence of any sort of defining qualities, besides being the element we are encased in. Irigaray asks “Can man live elsewhere than in air?” We cannot, and still, in the absence of its visual presence through a haze, all concerns about the air are parked until next winter, when it is difficult to escape talking about it because of the visible smog. The ephemeral nature of air also extends to the difficulty in proscribing blame for Delhi’s air crisis. The panic around the smog that plagues the Northern part of the Indian subcontinent hinges on a logic of visuality— it is only when there is a visible haze that attention turns toward the air quality, when even the
sunniest day in Delhi or Lahore registers air quality levels well above hazardous. Does the Blue Sky Lie? asks us to think about the air we breathe and what
drives it to be toxic, even when it is ephemeral, invisible, removed from our consciousness by the deceptive blueness of the sky. It engages with the multiplicities of air and what it holds within it.
Through four distinct episodes, it draws attention to our bodies and their communion with the atmosphere through breath, to the systems and structures of power and capital that cause ecological toxicity, to the interconnectedness of natural systems across time and geographies, and to speculative imaginings of futures: both hopeful and bleak
– A Public Art intervention : Air Expo 2022, Select Citywalk Plaza
– An Exhibition : Does the Blue Sky Lie? Khoj Studios
– Informal Talks : Cafe Classroom, Khoj Studios
– Townhall / Staged NGT Court Hearing
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