LOGAN – The digitally-projected waterfall of blue light know as Particle Falls sets out to accomplish something different than most works of art. It is a visual representation of local air quality. Cache Valley residents and Utah State University students will have another chance to view Particle Falls this week. The piece made its USU debut January 22 and will be on display again February 19 and 20. After this week’s dates, it will be shown again March 19 and one last time April 16.
University of New Mexico art professor Andrea Polli is the artist behind the piece. She said that every 15 seconds, a device measures the amount of pollution in the air. For every extra bit of pollution measured, a little bit of red will join the cascading blue. With enough pollution, Polli said the waterfall will appear to be on fire.
The piece is temporarily at USU as part of ARTsySTEM, a new program at the university that brings together art and science in hopes to create collaborative projects.
Particle Falls was originally displayed in San Jose, California, where Polli was commissioned to do the piece. She said the city wanted something that would both emphasize positive changes for environmental improvement and to revitalize a “forgotten corner of the city.”
“They actually knew what site it was going to be on and so they showed me site,” Polli said. “It was this tall building with a curved wall and it just seemed like I was looking up the side of a cliff or something and so I thought that a tall waterfall would look great there. That was the idea.”
In addition to San Jose, the piece has visited Detroit, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. Logan probably won’t be its last stop. Polli said there is a group in North Carolina that would like it displayed and another group in New York City that wants it in all five of the city’s boroughs. Polli said when her piece was in Detroit, it generated lots of conversation about diesel fumes. In Pittsburgh, it sparked talk of industrial pollution.
“Usually people are pretty shocked that what they are seeing is the real-time particulate pollution levels,” Polli said.
Polli said she was “thrilled” to be invited to be a part of the ARTsySTEM project.
“I think it has been real groundbreaking,” she said. “It’s a great thing USU is doing, happy to be a part of it.”