Beijing-based artist Liang Kegang is yet another person to cash in on the packaged air craze amid China’s choking pollution, except this time it’s all in the name of *art*. On his return from a business trip in southern France, Liang brought with him a small jar of pure, clean Provence air to protest his hometown’s smothering smog.
Associated Press reports:
He put it up for auction before a group of about 100 Chinese artists and collectors late last month, and it fetched 5,250 yuan ($860).
“Air should be the most valueless commodity, free to breathe for any vagrant or beggar,” Liang said in an interview. “This is my way to question China’s foul air and express my dissatisfaction.”
Liang’s work is part of a gust of recent artistic protest – and entrepreneurial gimmickry – reflecting widespread dissatisfaction over air quality in China, where cities often are immersed days on end in harmful pollutants at levels many times what is considered safe by the World Health Organization.
Beijing’s government has proposed some outlandish ideas to tackle the capital’s chronic smog problems. We’re talking liquid nitrogen, smog-busting drones, banned barbecues (no!) and whatever else falls under the giant bubble architects want to build over the city to keep residents smog-free.
But what’s possibly even more preposterous are the cities using China’s hazardous smog problems as a way to boost their own tourism. In March, for example, 20 bags of vacuum-packed mountain air were shipped to residents in Zhengzhou, Henan province in a campaign hoping to promote tourism at nearby Laojun Mountain. Locals lined up to take gulps from 20 masks hooked up to bags of certified Laojun Mountain Air, with some residents “wringing the bags to squeeze out every last air molecule”.
Weeks before, Guizhou said it planned on manufacturing canned fresh air to promote tourism in the region after President Xi Jinping joked to provincial delegates during last month’s National People’s Congress that the province should put its air up for sale. This idea, of course, was already carried out last year by entrepreneur/philanthropist Chen Guangbiao.
Liang’s latest contribution, a small glass preserves jar filled with air from the village of Forcalquier, was purchased by Chengdu artist and entrepreneur Li Yongzheng.
“I have always been appreciative of Kegang’s conceptual art, and this piece was very timely,” Li said in a telephone interview with the AP. “This past year, whether it was Beijing, Chengdu or most Chinese cities, air pollution has been a serious problem. This piece of work really suits the occasion.”