TED全球问题:艾米丽·帕森斯-洛德:我们呼吸的空气创造的艺术

发表时间:2018-08-18内容来源:VOA英语学习网

TED全球问题:Emily Parsons-Lord: Art made of the air we breathe

If I asked you to picture the air,what do you imagine?Most people think about either empty spaceor clear blue skyor sometimes trees dancing in the wind.And then I remember my high schoolchemistry teacher with really long socksat the blackboard,drawing diagrams of bubblesconnected to other bubbles,and desCRIbing how they vibrateand collide in a kind of frantic soup.

But really, we tend not to thinkabout the air that much at all.We notice it mostlywhen there's some kind of unpleasantsensory intrusion upon it,like a terrible smellor something visible like smoke or mist.But it's always there.It's touching all of us right now.It's even inside us.Our air is immediate, vital and intimate.And yet, it's so easily forgotten.

So what is the air?It's the combination of the invisiblegases that envelop the Earth,attracted by the Earth'sgravitational pull.And even though I'm a visual artist,I'm interested inthe invisibility of the air.I'm interested in how we imagine it,how we experience itand how we all have an innateunderstanding of its materialitythrough breathing.All life on Earth changes the airthrough gas exchange,and we're all doing it right now.Actually, why don't we allright now together takeone big, collective, deep breath in.

Ready? In. (Inhales)And out. (Exhales)

That air that you just exhaled,you enriched a hundred timesin carbon dioxide.So roughly five liters of air per breath,17 breaths per minuteof the 525,600 minutes per year,comes to approximately45 million liters of air,enriched 100 times in carbon dioxide,just for you.Now, that's equivalent to about 18Olympic-sized swimming pools.

For me, air is plural.It's simultaneouslyas small as our breathingand as big as the planet.And it's kind of hard to picture.Maybe it's impossible,and maybe it doesn't matter.

Through my visual arts practice,I try to make air, not so much picture it,but to make it visceraland tactile and haptic.I try to expand this notionof the aesthetic, how things look,so that it can include thingslike how it feels on your skinand in your lungs,and how your voice soundsas it passes through it.I explore the weight, density and smell,but most importantly,I think a lot about the stories we attachto different kinds of air.

This is a work I made in 2014.It's called "Different Kindsof Air: A Plant's Diary,"where I was recreating the airfrom different eras in Earth's evolution,and inviting the audienceto come in and breathe them with me.And it's really surprising,so drastically different.

Now, I'm not a scientist,but atmospheric scientistswill look for tracesin the air chemistry in geology,a bit like how rocks can oxidize,and they'll extrapolatethat information and aggregate it,such that they caNPRetty much form a recipefor the air at different times.Then I come in as the artistand take that recipeand recreate it using the component gases.

I was particularly interestedin moments of timethat are examplesof life changing the air,but also the air that can influencehow life will evolve,like Carboniferous air.It's from about 300 to 350million years ago.It's an era knownas the time of the giants.So for the first timein the history of life,lignin evolves.That's the hard stuffthat trees are made of.So trees effectively inventtheir own trunks at this time,and they get really big,bigger and bigger,and pepper the Earth,releasing oxygen, releasingoxygen, releasing oxygen,such that the oxygen levelsare about twice as highas what they are today.And this rich air supportsmassive insects —huge spiders and dragonflieswith a wingspan of about 65 centimeters.To breathe, this air is really cleanand really fresh.It doesn't so much have a flavor,but it does give your bodya really subtle kind of boost of energy.It's really good for hangovers.

(Laughter)

Or there's the air of the Great Dying —that's about 252.5 million years ago,just before the dinosaurs evolve.It's a really short time period,geologically speaking,from about 20- to 200,000 years.Really quick.This is the greatest extinction eventin Earth's history,even bigger than whenthe dinosaurs died out.Eighty-five to 95 percent of speciesat this time die out,and simultaneous to that is a huge,dramatic spike in carbon dioxide,that a lot of scientists agreecomes from a simultaneouseruption of volcanoesand a runaway greenhouse effect.Oxygen levels at this time goto below half of what they are today,so about 10 percent.So this air would definitely notsupport human life,but it's OK to just have a breath.And to breathe, it's oddly comforting.It's really calming, it's quite warmand it has a flavor a little bitlike soda water.It has that kind of spritz,quite pleasant.

So with all this thinkingabout air of the past,it's quite natural to start thinkingabout the air of the future.And instead of being speculative with airand just making up what I thinkmight be the future air,I discovered this human-synthesized air.That means that it doesn't occuranywhere in nature,but it's made by humans in a laboratoryfor application in differentindustrial settings.

Why is it future air?Well, this air is a really stable moleculethat will literally be part of the aironce it's released,for the next 300 to 400 years,before it's broken down.So that's about 12 to 16 generations.And this future air hassome very sensual qualities.It's very heavy.It's about eight times heavierthan the air we're used to breathing.It's so heavy, in fact,that when you breathe it in,whatever words you speakare kind of literally heavy as well,so they dribble down your chinand drop to the floorand soak into the cracks.It's an air that operatesquite a lot like a liquid.

Now, this air comeswith an ethical dimension as well.Humans made this air,but it's also the most potentgreenhouse gasthat has ever been tested.Its warming potential is 24,000 timesthat of carbon dioxide,and it has that longevityof 12 to 16 generations.So this ethical confrontationis really central to my work.(In a lowered voice) It hasanother quite surprising quality.It changes the sound of your voicequite dramatically.

(Laughter)

So when we start to think — ooh!It's still there a bit.

(Laughter)

When we think about climate change,we probably don't think aboutgiant insects and erupting volcanoesor funny voices.The images that more readily come to mindare things like retreating glaciersand polar bears adrift on icebergs.We think about pie chartsand column graphsand endless politicianstalking to scientists wearing cardigans.

But perhaps it's time we startthinking about climate changeon the same visceral levelthat we experience the air.Like air, climate change is simultaneouslyat the scale of the molecule,the breath and the planet.It's immediate, vital and intimate,as well as being amorphous and cumbersome.And yet, it's so easily forgotten.

Climate change is the collectiveself-portrait of humanity.It reflects our decisions as individuals,as governments and as industries.And if there's anythingI've learned from looking at air,it's that even thoughit's changing, it persists.It may not support the kind of lifethat we'd recognize,but it will support something.And if we humans are such a vitalpart of that change,I think it's importantthat we can feel the discussion.Because even though it's invisible,humans are leavinga very vibrant trace in the air.

Thank you.

(Applause)

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