FLOAT Beijing is an interactive, community driven art project that uses kite making and kite flying to activate dialogue, map and record air quality in Beijing, China. FLOAT uses local knowledge sharing, public kite flying and creativity to address an urgent ecological, environmental and social urban issue.
Urban air quality is a serious issue that affects rapidly industrializing cities globally, and within Beijing as the capital of China, it is an issue kept quiet by the government under fear of criticism and protest from the public. At the same time, there is ample opportunity to use cheap, easily accessible microcontroller technology for grassroots air quality mapping. We see the traditional art of kite flying as an immense opportunity to pair it with microcontroller technology in order to give agency to local residents in understanding urban air quality.
Our project has two components: a workshop and a group kite flight that uses a special module developed, which detects carbon monoxide, VOC and particulate matter. The modules are attached to homemade kites and flown into the air. Detection levels are displayed through LED lights that change in color, creating a constellation of air quality indicating lights in the night sky.
Through a series of workshops, FLOAT empowers and enables local residents to take air quality monitoring into their own hands, as well as establish new relationships and networks within the community through the act of group kite making and flying.
A series of 3 workshops + group kite flights will be held in Beijing, with outreach to Beijing neighborhood groups and organizations. Together, the community will be able to design and make kites in which the sensing modules are attached, learn more about air quality monitoring, and the technology behind it. After the workshops, a group night time kite flight will take place. Due to light and air pollution, it is extremely difficult to see stars in the Beijing night sky. These kites will appear not only as indicators of urban air pollution, but also a strong visual and sensory experience. As our project is public art, it also brings together people from all walks of life -- from old kite masters in Beijing, to young environmentalists, to participate and make the final public art piece together.
We have received funding for project materials from the Black Rock Arts Foundation and we've come a long way with the kite prototype, finding an old kitemaster from Henan who has been making kites in Beijing for the past 15 years, establishing locations for workshops and kite flights. We're excited for the upcoming workshops in August, but we need a bit more help to allow for more local residents to partake in the project. For more info please check www.f-l-o-a-t.com