“El aire tiene peso”, Silvia Teixeira (ES)

Title of the artwork: El aire tiene peso

Author: Silvia Teixeira in collaboration with The Instituto de Estudios Postnaturales (IPS)

Date: 2021




The project focuses on the understanding of air as a political subject and how its representation, aestheticized, romanticized and mythologized, has contaminated the collective imagination. Silvia Teixeira has developed it in collaboration with the Instituto de Estudios Postnaturales as part of a research residency at Medialab Matadero.

The work generated in the research process has been part of the exhibition Un Lago de Jade Verde at CentroCentro (Madrid) and has been projected at Medialab Matadero (Madrid).


Walking down the street, next to the facade of the Medialab center in Madrid, we can see how this is transformed into a conglomerate of pixels that are changing color. If we go closer to find out what these pixels represent, we will see that it consists of the transformation of the skies of three classic paintings in three digital sunsets, using data from the air pollution of Madrid.

Silvia Teixeira has used the paintings of José María Avrial y Flores (View of the South façade of the Prado Museum from inside the Botanical Garden, 1835), Francisco de Goya y Lucientes (The meadow of San Isidro, 1788) and Francisco Bayeu y Subías (The Canal Bridge of Madrid, 1784) as representative locations of the city of Madrid, through painting, to measure the particles in suspension in the air at sunset, indicating its quality or toxicity.

The data are obtained during these measurements with the oxogons that Silvia Teixeira created for her project Respiramos con Madrid. In this way, the Institute of Postnatural Studies, in collaboration with the researcher, translates the pollution values so that the air particles themselves modify the intensity, tone and brightness of the skies represented in the paintings.

These resulting pieces correspond to a new typology of sunsets constructed from the colors of the skies of Madrid and the real data of the air pollution we breathe. This generates post-natural sunsets that build a complex image of the environment in which we live.


What materials / media are used in the work and why? 

This work could be considered a single-channel projection using mapping to adapt it to the shape of the facade of the Medialab center. The materials used for this project are somewhat intangible, being pollution data obtained by oxogons.  The information obtained from the geolocation, range of colors and amount of volatile particles, are translated and transformed to give rise to three digital sunsets that are materialized in the form of projection.

What is the significance of the elements of the work? 

El aire tiene peso has been developed within the framework of the project Respiramos Con Madrid, with the data obtained by Silvia Teixeira’s fieldwork on volatile particles present in Madrid’s air, in order to complexify the relationship between this agent and its cultural construction. With this project, we want to offer a series of sunsets loaded with critical information that make us reflect on the way in which the sky has been represented and how art has constructed a romanticized and aestheticized image of it. This collaboration proposes to visualize the air as a political subject around which to build a space for discussion and reflection.

Respiramos Con Madrid is presented as a platform promoted by Medialab Matadero from which to articulate a collective context of research and production around air quality in our cities and towns, opening spaces for prototyping and collective reflection to make visible the problem of pollution in the city of Madrid, involving citizens, empowering them through the manufacture of their own meters and offering visualization tools. It focuses on PM2.5 particles, very harmful to human and non-human health, still quite unknown and without extensive measurement data.

Oxogens are the tool used to measure pollution. They measure volatile particles in the air and change color to tell us what the air we breathe is like.

The project arises from previous research carried out in DIY Satellites, through a project in which different prototypes were developed to study critical aspects for life in Madrid, such as air quality through measurements of CO2 levels, UV radiation or suspended particles. For this purpose, Arduino technology, different types of sensors and digital manufacturing components were used.

DIY Satellites is also a learning community, formed by students from several high schools, teachers, amateurs and professionals from various disciplines.

Through the Open Access Workshop “Creating the Prototype” with several sessions throughout 2020 and 2021 these meters were collectively fabricated.

In this workshop, a large Oxogon was built and installed in Medialab. During the workshop, small wooden models were also made so that attendees could take a sample of the Oxogon structure to their homes. Basic notions about atmospheric pollution were also explained, as well as how the electronics and sensors that make up the guts of the large meter and its geometric structure work. No previous knowledge was necessary.

There were two groups of 6 people, with a total of 12 attendees. The Institute of Postnatural Studies was invited to introduce artistic practice into the project.

Through artistic production and pollution indicators, the treatment of ecology is extended not only to environmental issues but also to the world of the image to, in this way, question the forms of narration of the environment in which we live through a critical and experiential cartography in which other temporalities and narratives coexist.

About the artist

Silvia Teixeira is a Telecommunications Engineer with special interest in astronomy, fundamental physics and collaborative science. She has previously worked as a researcher in the field of superconductive radio frequency and particle acceleration at the HIE-ISOLDE experiment at CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research). She has also participated in research projects on the mitigation of high power effects in space equipment at ESA (European Space Agency).

Author of the analysis: Amalia Ortega Rodas