Inhale / Exhale

What would the trees say about the air we share, if they could speak? 

Since 2022, we have been investigating the issue of air quality in Bootle and Netherton with community members, artists, and researchers. Engaging in research, we set out to uncover, discuss, and learn about the quality of the air in Sefton through walks and workshops exploring the connection between our senses, human and more-than-human lifeforms, and air quality, collecting data and readings along the way. 

Built-up, urban spaces like Bootle and Netherton are particularly affected by the main roads, used for heavy goods transport and household cars, that cut through them. Communities like ours which are near these main roads may feel the effects of air pollution more than those living in greener spaces in other areas of the borough.

We invited artists Gregory Herbert, Dongni Liang, and Aous Hamoud to work with participants to gather materials through workshops, walks and conversations and voice their thoughts and concerns about air quality. Each artist has used this process to develop artworks reflecting on air quality and their engagement with the community. 

Ivan Gee, Senior Lecturer in Public Health at Liverpool John Moores University, also joined us over a few informal meet ups to explain science behind our air quality readings, answer our questions, and demystify the language around air pollution. From looking at lichens as biological indicators of air quality, to recording experimental scores using breath, and imagining ourselves in the shoes of our more-than-human neighbours, each artwork explores different aspects of how air quality impacts us and our surroundings.

During the project, questions were raised about who has access to information about our local air quality and the accessibility of the language used: Who has the power on issues which affect our health and natural environment? We discussed these questions through a community poster making workshop, sharing solutions  such as green barriers to reduce pollution, commuting via walking and cycling through green spaces, less industrial infrastructure and preserving our much loved green spaces, such as Rimrose Valley and the canal. These ideas will be shared, along with the artworks and some of our findings, through a digital social media campaign from the 29th April – 6th May 2024.

Using the Air Quality Index, we took regular readings which fluctuated from good to hazardous levels depending on the time of day, amount of traffic, and location. Netherton in particular has no regular monitoring in place, despite being situated right next to major junctions and highways. 

Air Quality weather report by Gregory Herbert
Things Forum by Dongni Liang.
Library of Sounds by Aous Hamoud

Credits

“Inhale / Exhale” is a collection of artworks, resulting from community-led research, walks and workshops investigating air quality in Bootle and Netherton with local people.

Thank you to lead artist and producer, Gregory Herbert, Senior Lecturer in Public Health at Liverpool John Moores University, Ivan Gee, contributing artists, Dongni Liang and Aous Hamoud, and all the participants who have helped with data gathering, collective research and participated in walks and workshops. A special thanks to the many hands who have supported this project creatively, including Varvara Shvetsova, Hannah Rose, Maria Malone, Andrea Ku and Rimrose Valley Friends. 

This work was funded by Breathe Better Air fund (Merseyside Community Foundation). This work was commissioned and produced by Rule of Threes Arts, with support from Faye Hamblett-Jones.