Cloud Car:
Andrea Polli

October 18 & 25, 2008

Feeling a need to see for yourself how auto emissions penetrate our atmosphere? On October 18 and 25, Ear to the Earth 2008 presents an opportuity with the installation Cloud Car.

Cloud Car, a misting, sounding, (auto)mobile installation developed by media artist Andrea Polli and special-effects technician Chuck Varga, explores the connection between the automobile, life and air in New York City. A Ford Taurus station wagon fitted with mist bars, hoses, pumps and other special-effects equipment, Cloud Car is a public artwork that focuses attention on air and the automobile by making emissions tangible with mist, providing a safe, visible demonstration of how a car emits harmful gases into the air.

Andrea Polli is a digital media artist whose projects often bring together artists and scientists from various disciplines to address issues related to global systems, the real time interconnectivity of these systems, and the effect of these systems on individuals. In a recent discussion with Polli, my attention was directed to her installation Airlight Taipei, and exhibition Aer - The Vehicle of the Soul, as former works that lead to Cloud Car. Airlight Taipei is a piece that translates Taipei environmental pollution data into sound in real-time. The result is a rhythmic pulse that changes throughout the day and a projected real-time image of a Taipei highway that is altered by the sound of the air around it. Aer - The Vehicle of the Soul is a virtual exhibition curated by Polli for, and a critical look at the issue of air quality. The title references 17th century British activist John Evelyn, author of Fumifugium or The Inconvenience of the Aer and Smoke of London Dissipated. Polli went on to cite the Blur Building, a suspended platform shrouded in a perpetual cloud of man-made fog erected for the 2002 Swiss National Exposé, as inspiration, and declared a growing desire to work with more materials as further impetus for Cloud Car.

Cloud Car debuted on Parking Day in Queens, New York, and pronounced by Polli to be a resounding success. The public work roused interest in passers-by, motivating them to ask questions they wouldn't have normally sought. Lending the installation greater community impact, Polli and Varga distributed fact-sheets on easily-executed emission reduction actions.

For Ear to the Earth 2008, Polli will take the installation one step further, and turn Cloud Car into a venue for sound. Visitors will be invited to sit in the car, accompanied by a guide, and listen to sound compositions, related to the environment, composed by Polli, Andrea Callard, and others. Seated in the special effects Taurus, immersed in a cloud of mist and sound, visitors can engage in a transformative space created for contemplation and exchange, meant to inspire future ecologically friendly action.

Written by Suzanne Thorpe

Photo by Joel Chadabe