Dark Beauty: Innovators Raise Awareness By Using Pollution, Climate Change as New Medium

April 28, 2016Posted by Terry Turner

It’s hard to imagine that anything beautiful could come of global warming or pollution, but several nuanced minds around the world are finding ways to turn ugly truth into objects of beauty, art, and efficiency.

During the climate change talks in Paris, an art display entitled “Ice Watch” was nothing short of chilling. Comprised of 12 icebergs calved from Greenland’s glaciers, the glaciers were lassoed by a tugboat crew and hauled to France, left to melt slowly on the streets outside of the building in which the talks were taking place.

The spectacle, courtesy of Artist Olafur Eliasson, was intended to serve as a reminder to delegates that time is running out.


The icebergs were arranged in a circle, like numbers on a clock, allowing to passersby to watch them melt in real time.

The largest of the bunch weighed in at nearly 10 tons, made from layer upon layer of compressed ice dating back thousands of years, chipping away at the reality that the world is quickly losing its supply of land ice.



Back on solid ground, Dutch artist Daan Roosegaarde’s 21-foot-tall tower is converting smog into jewelry by using the world’s largest air purifier.

The invention cleans CO2 from one million cubic feet of air every hour, filters it, and compresses it into cubes.


Each one contains less than a half inch of carbon extracted from 35,300 cubic feet of air, and Is turned into settings for rings and cufflinks.

Initially, Roosegaarde launched a Kickstarter campaign that raised $122,000 to take his jewelry-making air filter to cities with some of the filthiest air on the planet including Mexico City, Los Angeles, and Beijing.

While the building, currently displayed in Rotterdam, converts matter into accessories, another could soon be comprised of the matter itself.

The air in Beijing is so thick with pollution that Nut Brother, who’s real name is Wang Renzheng (pictured above), used an industrial vacuum cleaner over 100 days to suck pollutants out of the air, creating a blunt object, a “smog block” that serves as an equally blunt message to the people of his city about the air they breathe.

He has said that he hopes the brick will be used to build something.


Inspiration for another device that could convert soot into printer toner came to its creator after it was recalled in a childhood memory.

As a child living in India, Anigudh Sharma observed that black residue from vehicle exhaust was collected on his skin during a taxi ride.

Fast forward to present day at MIT, where Sharma, a graduate of the university, has led the MIT Media Lab India Initiative. There, he designed a simple contraption he calls a Kaala-printer that sucks soot out of polluted air, mixes in a bit of oil and rubbing alcohol and creates printer ink.

Essentially, he took one of the most expensive commodities in the world — printer ink— and created a substitute out of thin air.

“For printing we assembled a Nicolas’ ink shield with arduino interfaced with our Soot-catcher pump design,” he wrote on his website. “This shield allows you to connect a HP C6602 inkjet cartridge to your Arduino turning it into a 96dpi print platform.”

Sharma asserts that companies like HP/Canon make 70 percent of their profits by selling these cartridges at 400% margin.


Photo Credits:
Greenland Ice Paris Photos By gmouret92, CC; Iswim Intime CC
Smog Free Tower: Studio Roosegaard
Nut Brother: joss zhong, CC

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