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Large-scale art projection highlights London’s pollution levels

  • Date: 10 October 2012
  • Area: London
projection of a pencil drawing of a young boy's head and torso on building viewed from bridge at night

Dryden Goodwin, Breathe, 2012, commissioned by Invisible Dust. Credit: Thierry Bal

A major new artwork by artist Dryden Goodwin exploring London's air quality, is being projected from the roof of St Thomas' Hospital, London from 6.30pm until 1am each evening, until 28 October.

The artwork, entitled Breathe, animates a series of pencil drawings of a young boy progressing through fluctuating breathing patterns and is best viewed from Westminster Bridge and the Houses of Parliament. It was launched by Alan Davey, Chief Executive, Arts Council England and Sir Hugh Taylor the Chair of Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust at an event on Monday 8 October.

Breathe is part of Invisible Breath, a series of UK artists commissions by Dryden Goodwin, HeHe and Faisal Abdu'Allah exploring air pollution and breathing air. The project has been produced as part of Invisible Dust curated by Alice Sharp and is supported by Arts Council England through Grants for the arts, as well as The Wellcome Trust and Guy's and St Thomas' Charity.

London pollution

London is one of the most polluted cities in Europe, with official studies showing that air pollution - mainly from traffic - causes more premature deaths than passive smoking and traffic accidents combined, at a cost of about £2 billion a year.

The child's torso in Breathe draws attention to the vulnerability of children whose developing respiratory system is most at risk from pollution. It references the figure of the child throughout art history, used as a timeless and universal emblem of youth and innocence.

Lung health research

To create Breathe Dryden Goodwin collaborated with Professor Frank Kelly, an expert on lung health at King's College London. Goodwin's depiction of a child breathing resonates with Kelly's research in partnership with the EXHALE program. EXHALE is a multidisciplinary study which focuses on the lung health of children who are exposed to air pollution in East London.

Check your local London pollution levels

The Breathe mobile web app enables you to upload your own photographs of the installation in situ, comments or visual responses to air pollution in general. The app features a Pollution Map where you can enter your London postcode to see today's pollution levels. This map is provided by London Air and is a pilot service to show current pollution levels in detail across London in comparison with the government's Air Pollution Index.

Houses of Parliament talk

The Environmental Select Committee (EAC) will host a discussion with Dryden Goodwin, Professor Frank Kelly and Joan Walley, MP, EAC Chair from 2-4pm on Tuesday 16 October at Portcullis House. To reserve free talk tickets email or phone 0207 2198377. See the Parliament website for more information.

Our work on environmental sustainability

Environmental sustainability is an issue of global significance. Art and culture have a unique role in helping to shift public understanding and behaviour.

Arts Council England is the first arts funding body in the world to embed environmental sustainability into its funding agreements with National portfolio organisations and Major partner museums. We are working in partnership with Julie's Bicycle, the environmental sustainability specialists for arts, culture and creative organisations, to support organisations to achieve this.

We recognise that climate change is a major interest for the public, especially young people. We would like to see arts and cultural organisations extend their roles and responsibilities within civil and national life, including how they respond to the challenge of climate change.

Find out more about how we support environmental sustainability.