The Museum of Contemporary Art Zagreb


Andrea Polli: Particle Fallz

Media facade, from 1. - 20. 12. 2015.

Particle Fallz is a real-time visualization of air-quality data.

Particle Fallz is a dramatic public work that highlights particulate pollution, raising awareness of its presence and impact. The responses of Particle Falls are often unexpected and chaotic, emphasizing the fragile and unstable nature of our Earth's atmosphere and the human role in increasing instability through anthropogenic climate change.

Three instruments called airbeams are installed outside the entrance of the museum to take in air samples and analyze the amount of particulates in the surrounding air. They generate data that is then converted to imagery and animation by a custom computer program and sent to the media facade of the museum, where it is visualized in in bursts of bright color over a constant background of falling blue light. Increasing frequency and size of the spots of color indicates a greater concentration of particles. The visualization updates with new particulate data every 15 seconds.

Although air is invisible, it has a major impact on public health. According to the European Environment Agency, atmospheric pollution of particulate matter with a diameter less than 10 µm (PM10-PM2.5) is the most widespread problem in Croatia. Despite the invisibility of air, modern sensors can detect tiny particulate pollution levels in real time. Particulate matter (PM 2.5) is air pollution caused primarily by emissions from automobiles, trucks and other diesel and gas-burning vehicles.

The World Air Quality Index provides continuous online particulate pollution data from stations in Zagreb and other cities in Croatia, you can access this data here:

Particle Falls was originally produced for the City of San Jose California. Partners working on the project have included meteorologist Tim Dye, artist Chuck Varga, Ryan Romero and other students in Polli's research laboratory at the University of New Mexico, The Social Media Workgroup. Thanks to MetOne instruments for particulate monitoring equipment and calibration.

Social Media Workgroup members working on Particle Fallz:

Eric Geusz – Programming, design and technical assistance

Jared Rendon-Trompak - Technical assistance

Trenton Small – Programming assistance

Artist's Bio: Andrea Polli is an artist working at the intersection of art, science and technology whose practice includes media installation, public interventions, curating and directing art and community projects and writing. She has been creating media and technology artworks related to environmental science issues since 1999, when she first began collaborating with atmospheric scientists on sound and data sonification projects. Among other organizations, she has worked with the NASA/Goddard Institute Climate Research Group in New York City, the National Center for Atmospheric Research and AirNow. She holds a doctorate in practice-led research from the University of Plymouth in the UK. Her latest book is Far Field: Digital Culture, Climate Change and the Poles on Intellect Press.

In her research and practice, she experiments with performance, interactive and web art, digital broadcasting and mobile media. She is focused on participatory media, and her practice often includes workshops or other activities designed to engage the public with ideas and concepts at various levels. She believes in the importance of many levels of interdisciplinary collaboration and has created collaborative situations for very large groups, small teams, or pairs of individuals. Through her work as a resident at Eyebeam Center for Art and Technology in New York and in creating the Open Source Learning Community at UNM, she has become increasingly committed to open source practice and concepts to aid collaboration, in project development and in teaching and mentoring.

She currently works in collaboration with atmospheric scientists to develop systems for understanding storm and climate through sound (called sonification). Recent projects include: a spatialized sonification of highly detailed models of storms that devastated the New York area; a series of sonifications of climate in Central Park; and a real-time multi-channel sonification and visualization of weather in the Arctic. In 2007/2008 she spent seven weeks in Antarctica on a National Science Foundation funded project.

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