Back Stories » Asia » Chinese Artist Vacuums the Air, Makes a Brick From Smog Dust

Chinese Artist Vacuums the Air, Makes a Brick From Smog Dust

When it comes to making a statement, some people choose to do so with their taste in music or their outfit choice. One Chinese performance artist, however, prefers to get his point across by dragging an industrial-sized vacuum cleaner around Beijing.

Last week, the wonderfully named Nut Brother, a 34-year-old performance artist, completed his latest project: over 100 days, the Shenzhen native vacuumed up Beijing's thick smog in various places around the city, collecting dust particles from the air, for four hours a day. Now, as his project draws to a close, Nut Brother is mixing his collection of particles with clay to create a single, solid brick of Beijing pollution, reports Quartz.

Nut Brother alerted the public to his plan in late July, when he apparently convinced a local restaurant owner to donate 10,000 yuan to his cause, according to the Guardian. As his endeavor began, Nut Brother posted daily updates on his Sina Weibo account, noting the date, weather and location of each smog collection along with photographic evidence of him standing in a public place, vacuum nozzle held high to catch the onslaught of dirty Beijing air.

While the brick highlights China's prolonged problem with air pollution, which has reached peak levels in recent years, some are skeptical of the project, including one Weibo user, who questioned whether the dust collected was enough to create an actual brick.

“What can be collected to make a brick is by no means PM 2.5 [fine particulate matter that hangs in the air], but PM 250,” Quartz quoted the Weibo user as saying.

For his part, Nut Brother claims no environmental activism angle to his latest project, only that he wants people to consider the relationship between nature and humanity more deeply.

“Dust represents the side effects of humankind’s development, including smog and building-site dust,” he told the New York Times. “When I first arrived in Beijing, I wore a hygienic mask for a few days, but later I stopped. In smog like this, there’s no escaping.” 

At the moment, the brick is nearing completion. Once it's done, Nut Brother wants to give brick to a construction site so that it can be used to build a new Beijing structure. The artist hopes the piece will disappear into the landscape of the city, “just like putting a drop of water in the ocean”, he told Quartz.

[Photo via New York Times]

Partner Content