Amy Balkin - Public Smog

Amy Balkin - Public Smog

project link: http://www.publicsmog.org

The title of Chris Marker's singular document on the New Left in the 1960's and 1970's, Le Fond de l'air est Rouge, posits this question; if revolution was in the air, why did it fail to materialize? The air, in Marker's title, carries contradictory associations that revolution was possible, that the possibility was palpable and surrounded people, but was at the same time illusory and ungraspable. The air is the times, the air is what binds us, the air is tactile and social, the air is always and inherently elusive.

Amy Balkin - Public Smog

In holding this set of metaphorical dialectics aloft, the air, the atmosphere, and the sky similarly bring layers of meaning to representations of climate change, where protesters and artists critique, and emissions traders advertise, utilizing the language of the atmospheric sublime.

Amy Balkin - Public Smog

My own interest in the air and atmosphere (and its representations) is linked to an ongoing project, Public Smog, a series of attempts to create a *clean-air* park in the atmosphere. Public Smog is concerned with the atmosphere as a social, political, and economic formation.

Actions to create the park have included purchasing and withholding emissions from regulated greenhouse gas markets in Southern California and in the European Union, and an attempt to submit the Earth's atmosphere for inclusion on the UNESCO World Heritage List. And anyone who wants to can construct Public Smog at any time, through any activity that creates it.

Amy Balkin - Public Smog

In the process of attempting to create the park, the project intersects the geopolitics of the atmosphere, and political and economic efforts to monetize and control this system through markets, international law, treaties, and police power.

As the politics of the atmosphere and the atmospherics of politics are currently so intertwined, it's important to consider the air as a political construct, legally and financially manipulated by polluting entities and nation-states, who continue to sabotage attempts to ameliorate climate change.

Amy Balkin - Public Smog

In response, Public Smog is a DIY public park that posits a speculative model for a counter-future of climate justice, set in opposition to the current expropriation of the atmospheric commons. Whose sky? Our sky!


Amy Balkin, 2007 (Public Smog is currently open to the public over the European Union through the end of 2007)

Amy Balkin - Public Smog


artist bio
Amy Balkin utilizes critique and cross-disciplinary research in projects that consider how humans create, interact with, and impact the social and material landscapes they inhabit. Her recent projects include Public Smog, Invisible-5 and This is the Public Domain. Invisible-5 is a collaborative environmental justice/ critical audio tour along California's Interstate-5 corridor between San Francisco and Los Angeles. The project investigates the stories of people and communities fighting for environmental justice along the I-5, through oral histories, field recordings, found sound, recorded music, and archival audio documents. The project also traces natural, social, and economic histories along the route. This project was developed in collaboration with artists Kim Stringfellow and Tim Halbur, and the organizations Pond: Art, Activism, and Ideas, and Greenaction for Health & Environmental Justice. The project is available to listen online or download from invisible5.org. This is the Public Domain is an ongoing project to create a permanent international commons, free to everyone, and held in perpetuity for that purpose. In 2003, a 2.5 acre parcel of land was purchased near Tehachapi, California, to serve as the site for the proposed public domain. Sharing of the commons will be initiated when a juridical solution for public handover is found.