Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : April 12th 2014 Contents A38
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Saturday, April 12, 2014
Beijing artist Liang Kegang returned from a busi-
ness trip in southern France with well-rested lungs
and a small item of protest against his home city s
choking pollution: a glass jar of clean, Provence
air.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 (US $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
tion over air quality in
China, where cities
often are immersed days
on end in harmful pol-
lutants at levels many
times what is consid-
ered safe by the World
The chronic problem
has spurred brisk mar-
kets for dust masks and
home air purifiers.
China s senior leaders
have pledged to clean
the air, partly in
response to a citizenry
increasingly vocal about environmental issues. But
it is a daunting task that must be balanced with
demands for economic development and employment
crucial to maintaining stability. In February, 20 artists
wearing dust masks lay on the ground and played
dead in front of an altar at the Temple of Heaven
park in a performance art protest in Beijing.
In March, independent artists in the southern city
of Changsha held a mock funeral for what they imag-
ined would be the death of the city s last citizen
because of smog.
"If smog cannot be effectively cleaned up, what
it will leave us is death and cities of death," artist
Shao Jiajun said.
Liang s contribution is a short, ordinary glass pre-
serves jar with a rubber seal and a flip-top. It has
three small, handwritten paper labels: one with the
name and co-ordinates of the French village, For-
calquier, where he closed the jar; one saying "Air in
Provence, France" in French; and one with his sig-
nature in Chinese and the date---March 29.
The auction closed on the night of March 30, and
Chengdu-based artist and entrepreneur Li Yongzheng
was the highest bidder.
"I have always been appreciative of Kegang s con-
ceptual art, and this piece was very timely," Li said
in a telephone interview. "This past year, whether it
was Beijing, Chengdu or most Chinese cities, air pol-
lution has been a serious problem. This piece of work
really suits the occasion."
Liang is not the only one to make money from
China s air-pollution angst. Entrepreneurs also see
the potential, and so do tourism officials in parts of
the country where skies are clear.
Chinese President Xi Jinping joked to Guizhou
province delegates during last month s National Peo-
ple s Congress that the scenic southwestern province
could put its air up for sale.
Days later, the province s tourism bureau announced
plans to sell canned air as souvenirs for tourists. In
central Henan province, local tourism authorities
promoting a resort scooped up mountain air and
gave away bags of it in downtown Zhengzhou, the
provincial capital. City dwellers inhaled the air, and
some said they planned to visit the mountain resort
to get more than a lungful.
Chen Guangbiao, a recycling tycoon has been
selling fresh air in cans under his "Good Person"
brand. They sell for $3 each on China s online bazaar
of Taobao. (AP)
Jar of clean air
sells for US$850
Right: Residents breath
from bags of fresh air
taken from a provincial
resort Laojun Mountains
during a promotional event
in Zhengzhou in central
China's Henan province.
Left: Beijing artist Liang
Kegang poses with the jar
of fresh air collected in
Provence, France, in an art
gallery in Beijing, China. The
jar of air has fetched $860
in a small auction as a piece
of conceptual art to protest
Beijing's choking pollution.
Liang's work is part of
a gust of recent
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
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