Blog: Calibrating Our Understanding

14th August 2013

Carbon Catcher Catriona Patterson shares her experiences of beginning to document and analyse CO2 data as it comes in off the …

Carbon Catcher Catriona Patterson shares her experiences of beginning to document and analyse CO2 data as it comes in off the streets, buildings and green spaces of Edinburgh and feeds into CO2 Edenburgh‘s growing understanding of emission levels in the city during the festival season.

This week one of the major projects in the gallery has been contributing to the ‘second wall’: the opposing blue of our Edinburgh sensors map. Originally a blank space, this has grown to itself be a combination of interacting parts, mediums and contributors. In turn, this ‘second wall’ deepens not only the understanding of those new to the gallery, but also provides those more permanently in the gallery space with a sense of simultaneous construction and uncovering:

“Here we document the practice of monitoring and the evolution of our perception and understanding of the role of art, process and performance in the experience, perception and material conditions of CO2 in the city.”

The additions to the fresh space are numerous and varied (characteristics we are enthusiastic to maintain throughout). Central to the wall is a chalk replica of the Carbon Catcher route, complete with points of static monitor placement. However, this is now grown through the attachment of photographs or those involved in the project ‘in the field’, conducting the art-science an adding a tangibility and reference point to those sites otherwise conceived purely though an OS map. It’s only in looking at these photos of myself with the device that I’m finally able to comprehend how those on the streets of Edinburgh must see the project at first glance: strange and irregular, but betraying aspects of familiarity. ‘CO2’ ‘Edenburgh’ – the scrolling cars and evolving numbers are intriguing, they incite your interest. And the monitoring device itself is comparable to those urban structures otherwise present in the photos. In this observation, a key aspect of the project is renewed – that this data is at it’s most relevant in discussion.

We are currently half-way through our series of four discussions, each producing interesting comments and questions relating to the project and the place and function of the arts and science in the wider world. After these discussions, the CO2 Edenburgh team post on the wall those ideas they found most intriguing or insightful, whittled and refined through collaborative effort.

One of my main tasks over the last few days has been in the construction of the PPM (parts per million) scale. It was recognised that, to the majority, ppm is an arbitrary measurement, and we were keen to ground CO2 ppm readings in history and human effect reference points. The produced scale therefore (now in it’s second edition) highlights how CO2 levels have fluctuated in history (280ppm in pre-industrial times, 387ppm in 2009 and 400ppm in 2013) on one side of the graph, with the opposing side portraying the effect of the gas of life as we (humans in the anthropocene and a life form on Earth) as we experience it. For me, this has been the most revealing discovery in the study of CO2. Although it’s not visible to us, it’s implications on an individual and world scale are immediately apparent.

I’m excited to see how the wall will continue to build as time progresses!

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