“The smog was heavy, my eyes were weeping from it, the sun was hot, the air stank,
a regular hell is L.A.”
Jack Kerouac, The Dharma Bums
Attributed to Henry Antoine the term smog first came to use in 1905, having used a mix of the words smoke and fog. The perceptible dark cloud like smog, as we know it, is composed of a mixture of emissions that react under specific climate conditions. These emissions include industrial pollutants, vehicle pollutants, open burning flame and active incinerators. Smog tends to form above dense urban centers with heavy industry and traffic congestion.
DUST is an immersive installation that builds on the genre of performance video. Francisco Alarcon uses stock video and sound to construct a video installation that simulates the activity of an artist in his art studio, working with synthetic mediums, generating particles that contaminate the atmosphere of the working space. Through video and sound, Alarcon positions the viewers as the subject in the polluted atmosphere. Purposely ethereal, the blurring quality of the air in the studio represents the abstract, smog filled atmosphere. The air the artist breathes, is the same the viewer breathes.
The video is divided in two parts. The first one shows particles floating in the atmosphere of the studio. The scale is small, intended to be introspective, visceral. They are lit up by a point light behind, though it is not clear why or how. The artist intends is to simulate how the polluted particles in the atmosphere alter the color of the air. An intense respirator breathing sound accompanies this part of video installation, making the space feel full and slightly claustrophobic. During the second segment, the intention is to “release" the intensity of the obstruction created by the respirator, guiding the viewer to the freer and cleaner air of the city. The audible breaths are lighter, less forced and though not obvious, it is due to the removal of the breathing mask. The video fades out from white to a gradient simulating a smoggy sky. At the end - with or without mask, the viewer cannot escape the effects of the contaminated air.
Alarcon intends to reflect the evolution on the artist’s studio practice historically through to the inclusion of harmful synthetic mediums as a part of the art creation process. As a part of the installation the artists presents an apparently used 3M Respirator with spray paint marks, as a byproduct of the artist activity in his studio.
The respirator is the remaining physical piece of the performance, as the artist wants to remark that pollution is inseparable from our current urban experience.
Francisco Alarcon, Harvard University, Graduate School of Design, 2016