Saturday, June 20, 2009
This spring, a project I'd been eagerly awaiting went live. EcoArtTech, who is Cary Peppermint and Christine Nadir, released its Eclipse project on the Turbulence.org net-art site. This lil program grabs photos of U.S. national parks from Flickr, then uses real-time air quality data from airnow.gov to mess with the images.
I tried it out for the first time on the Great Smokies National Park, and despite a current air quality rating of G (that's "good" to you), the images were corrupted with pleasingly colored but alarming horizontal lines. A couple of them had a feel similar to to one of my favorite recent shirt.woot entries—in particular, a photograph of huge grey-black rocks in a slow-moving stream, the water reflecting an odd bright yellow in the original photograph, became a disorienting/abstract thing with bands of magenta and cyan interrupting the flow of water around the rocks, the flow of the shapes the rocks made.
I tried the Sumter, SC, national forest, another site dear to my heart, but got a message saying that AQI values aren't available for it right now. Wonder why.
If we could see the effects of factors like air pollution all the time, we'd become inured to them. In fact, that's probably how we manage to stand seeing the ones that are visible without hyperventilating. There's the kind of filters that keep the world manageable—and the kind that make important parts of the world visible to us. That's what this project feels like. For our emotional survival, we have to keep the first kind intact; for our long-term survival, we have to keep making more of the second kind of filter, keep finding ways to see what's subtle or painful or too big to conceptualize. Keep it up, EcoArtTech!