“Air—it’s invisible. We can’t really see it, touch it, know that it exists . . .
How can we become more aware of what’s happening with our air before we experience asthma or other problems that come from poor air?”
Andrea Polli, digital-media artist and creator of Particle Falls
Particle Falls is a large-scale, real-time visualization of air-quality data.
On a background of falling blue light, spots of bright, fiery color emerge and crackle, representing the presence of fine particulate matter, as detected by a nearby air monitor. Fewer bright spots over the falls mean fewer particles in the air.
Particle Falls draws our attention to the invisible particles that surround us and that may affect our health. While the visible smog that plagued many U.S. urban centers decades ago has been mitigated by technology and regulatory measures, microscopic threats to our air continue to exist and often go unnoticed. Particle Falls is one way we can learn more about the quality of air around us.
“Philadelphia has come a long way in improving the quality of the air we breathe, but our work isn’t done. Particle Falls makes it possible to see—in real time and vivid color—the challenges we continue to face.” Thomas Huynh, Director, Air Management Services, City of Philadelphia
This installation, originally shown in San Jose, California, in 2010, was projected onto the façade of the Wilma Theater, at Broad and Spruce streets in Philadelphia, from September 26 to December 1, 2013. For more visitor information, as well as media from Particle Falls events, click here.
Andrea Polli is a digital-media artist whose work merges art, science, and technology to address how natural and man-made systems are connected. Since 1999 Polli has focused on environmental-science issues in her work and has collaborated extensively with atmospheric scientists. Most recently Polli worked with scientists to develop systems for understanding climate through sound using sonification, a process by which data is translated into sound. Find Andrea Polli at her website, andreapolli.com.
Below you’ll find links that explore how Particle Falls works; how, where, and when to experience it; and resources for learning more about Philadelphia’s air.