Sunday, 14 October 2012


Stand outside the Houses of Parliament by Big Ben, look south over Westminster Bridge and this is what you see, a large video screen atop St Thomas’ Hospital on the south bank of the Thames. It’s an arresting, moving image of a young child breathing. It’s presented by Invisible Dust, a commissioning organisation bringing together leading artists and scientists to examine issues around climate change, air pollution and the environment. London is one of the most polluted cities in Europe, air pollution causing more deaths than passive smoking and traffic accidents combined.

For his new installation Goodwin created over a thousand pencil drawings of the breathing of his five-year-old son, sometimes easy and relaxed, at other times laboured. You may recall some of Dryden Goodwin’s earlier work in Blog No 10 – his warm, lively, humane, informative portraits of staff who work on London’s Underground system, which used to be on display outside Southwark tube station. 

The dramatic scale of the projection high up on the skyline heightens the fragility of a young child drawing breath. We know that children are more susceptible to (invisible) air pollution because their lungs are underdeveloped at birth and mature slowly during childhood.  But it reminds us of the fragility of us all, from the moment of relief when we as a new born baby drew our first breath to the moment when we will draw our last. It resonates with the research of Professor Frank Kelly, an advisor to the government on air pollutants, who has studied the effects on the health of children of the Congestion Charge and Low Emission Areas. It’s hoped that his EXHALE study of 8 year olds in East London will help inform future government policy 

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