Life On Respirator (人肉吸霾机)

Life On Respirator is an interactive installation raising awareness of air pollutions.

Each breath is life, yet its significance often gets unnoticed until people find they are in critical conditions. In this piece of work I intend to manifest the interaction with our respiratory system, the unsung hero in our existence. I also want to put this work in a social context where air pollution has emerged an imperative issue in some regions of the world. Beijing, where I grew up, has suffered for years serious air pollution caused from industries to traffic. Each day people living in Beijing have to wear respirators trying to protect themselves from the tiny toxic particles floating in the air. Still, high levels of air pollution in China’s cities caused 350,000-400,000 premature deaths (mostly lung cancers) and another 300,000 died because of indoor air of poor quality. To these people, including my family, breathing is a hard effort. It is my hope that this work draws people’s attention and care for the other citizens of the world and regain the appreciation for clean air and a functioning respiratory system that they enjoy everyday.


This work of art incorporates visual, auditory, haptic and locomotory elements and everyday object to create a more arresting interactive experience, as an attempt to match the level of sensory overload we experience on a day-to-day basis. User’s respiration intensity is detected by a humidity sensor, whose data are then mapped to visualize the internal particulate movement of a human lung. As user breathes into the respirator, it incurs a reduction in the audio volume of people coughing and the amount of smoke coming out of the industrial facility — as if user has breathed in the polluted air — as well as an increase in the toxic particles visible in his lung. Further, there is a motion detection system built into this work which tracks user motion makes the smoke follow the user, symbolizing the ubiquity of air pollution. The particulate respirator is a device people in Beijing use on a daily basis, and is meant to act as an additional stimulator for empathy.

* setup 1.jpg

Media: Arduino, Processing, humidity sensor, motion detection camera.