Anna Bulgarelli

2021 - Ongoing

Bologna, Emilia-Romagna, Italy; Trentino-Alto Adige, Italy

Aer-Aether is a research that aims to explore the effects of pollution on the biology of our surroundings, including humans, at different scales, as well as on the narrative of the landscape. The project is divided into various attempts at analysis, which see air both as a vital element and as a corrupt and polluted substance.

The Po Valley, the starting point of my investigation, is an area that has a very high concentration of fine particles and PM10. Air pollution is a major cause of morbidity and mortality in this area, and the exact extent of its health effects is still largely unknown.

Pm10 indicates the set of solid substances which, given their nanometric size, remain suspended in the air. The danger of these particles is directly proportional to their size, in fact the smaller they are, the more they are able to cross the skin and bind with the blood. This imperceptible dust over time settles, stratifies and remains impressed on all surfaces, leaving an indelible mark.

The mountains, on the other hand, represent a place not yet completely corrupt in the Po Valley imagination. One of the collective practices shared by the population of the plain is to periodically migrate to the mountains to breathe "clean air". This necessity that evolves into tradition appears contradictory and perhaps for this reason peculiarly human: to create a hostile environment, to live in it, then to seek an environment free from this hostility.

The invisibility of air does not imply that it is impossible to represent it, nor that there is no imaginary closely linked to this element. Can the intangible be captured? The leap in scale, from the microscopic to the human, from the particulate matter to the landscape allows a change of perspective. The oriented gaze, broad or narrow, near or far from what it represents tries to construct a geography of contamination that includes both the reality of things and its narrative.

The practice of observing the facts of nature to understand what is happening to us has always guided the human species in the search for traces. What are the traces of toxic air? How is our history stratified on these tracks? Awareness of the pervasiveness of air in living bodies and in terrestrial matter dilutes the dualism between us and the environment, which we perceive as other, foreign. The need to look for ourselves in the mesh of things led this work to attempt to collect the aesthetics of pollution as well as the memory that that pollution generated.

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