Giant diesel sculpture reveals what city dwellers breathe in

Issue date: 07 June 2018

A sculpture designed to make air pollution visible to the public will be on display as part of a UWE Bristol public engagement project.

Artist Luke Jerram's Inhale sculpture depicts a diesel soot particle three million times its actual size. The 3m-high artwork commissioned by the University will make its first public appearance at the Festival of Nature in Bristol on the weekend of June 9-10.

The artwork, part of creative engagement project Our City Our Health, aims to draw people's attention to the health impacts of poorly designed cities. Created by Jerram - the acclaimed artist behind the Museum of the Moon (currently touring internationally) and the giant waterslide 'Park and Slide' in Bristol's Park Street in 2014 - the sculpture is intended to spark conversations around what we can all do to shape our city for the better.

Jerram, a Visiting Senior Research Fellow at UWE Bristol, said: "The artwork was in part inspired by the recent Volkswagen diesel scandal and a friend whose young child suffers from asthma."

Diesel soot was chosen as the focus of the artwork as diesel vehicles are a significant contributor towards air pollution in the UK in particular. In Bristol, air pollution is thought to contribute to five deaths a week. Materials used in the sculpture reflect the makeup of an emitted diesel soot particle, with coal representing the particle's black carbon, pyrite representing the metal residue shed from exhaust and brake pads and calcite to represent the chipped road surface.

Our City Our Health is supporting research project UPSTREAM, funded by the Wellcome Trust and led by UWE Bristol. UPSTREAM is a cross-disciplinary project combining expertise from economics, public health and ecology, and backed by a panel of experts in urban development, policy and impact. The team has been working collaboratively with Our City Our Health, also funded by the Wellcome Trust. Working with some of Bristol's best-loved artists, Our City Our Health will be capturing public opinion on priorities for healthier, more sustainable cities throughout 2018.

Dr Ben Williams, Research Associate at UWE Bristol's Air Quality Management Resource Centre and UPSTREAM Project Manager, said: "The components of a healthy urban environment are hard to visualise and, as a consequence, difficult to grasp. UPSTREAM's research highlights the economic and health impacts of unhealthy urban environments through a robust academic study of what they are really costing us. Inhale brings air pollution, an invisible, yet significant urban public health burden, to light and in doing so, opens a conversation on the wider health determinants of our built environment."

Professor James Longhurst, Assistant Vice-Chancellor for Environment and Sustainability at UWE Bristol, said: "I am delighted and impressed at the sculpture Luke Jerram has produced to make invisible air pollution visible. Air pollution is a major cause of ill health and this impressive sculpture will encourage debate and I hope action on the impact of air pollution on public health."

Notes to editors:

UWE Bristol is part of an international academic consortium working on UPSTREAM, in partnership with urban development and research consultancy, Daniel Black and Associates (db+a), and the University of Bath, with support from the University of Washington and United Nations University.

Our City Our Health is a UWE Bristol creative engagement project working with UPSTREAM researchers and Bristol-based citizens and organisations on understanding the city's priorities for achieving healthy urban development. Find out more at @ShapeOurCity or at from 8 June.

Luke Jerram's multidisciplinary practice involves the creation of sculptures, installations and live arts projects. Living in Bristol but working internationally for 20 years, Jerram has created a number of extraordinary art projects which have excited and inspired people around the globe. In Bristol he is known for Park and Slide, the waterslide he installed down Park street, Glass Microbiology, the glass sculptures of viruses presented in WeTheCurious 2017 and Play Me I'm Yours, his installation of street pianos installed across Bristol in 2017.

Festival of Nature

The Festival of Nature is an initiative of the Bristol Natural History Consortium, which is a charitable collaboration between 13 of the biggest natural history organisations in the city.

The Festival of Nature aims to:

· Inspire greater engagement with and action for nature through accessible, celebratory public events that attract new audiences and widen participation;

· Raise awareness of further opportunities to engage with and take action for nature;

· Recognise and enhance the region's reputation as a leading centre for conservation, environmental research and public engagement with nature.

This year, UWE Bristol projects being showcased at the festival include:

· Oral Malodour: research exhibit in conjunction with Colgate exploring malodour in orally healthy adults and its application in the detection of disease.

· ClairCity: interactive technology based exhibit including a demo of the ClairCity air pollution game.

· Mastermind/Chinese Whispers: exhibit exploring changes in cell DNA messages.

· Capturing the Natural World: photography-based exhibit exploring interaction with nature through images.

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