The Air Addiction project
The Air Addiction is a series of videos about the smog issue in China. The videos were created in 2016. This project is based on my personal experience of living in smog for years and it is a red alert for all Chinese people, the government and environmental protection agencies that we have to implement strict regulations and address this issue as soon as possible. The project includes three parts. The first part named Holding breath, tells my panic and helpless reaction When I first realized the danger of inhaling the particulate matter. I lock myself at home and practice the length of holding breath because I do not know how to avoid inhale polluted air. The second part is called Protection, which describes my daily routine with different types of protective face mask after living in the smog for a year. I feel more depressed and sad instead of fear and panic, it seems like I surrendered. The last part is an imagination of my future life called Illusion. Breathing easily could be a luxury consumption, like taking drugs, if the smog keeps blanketing the whole country, it creates hallucination and makes people get addicted. All videos are shot in heavy smoggy days in Hubei and Hunan provinces during October and November in 2016, there is no image that has been edited by any special effect.
Depending on the experience of my life in smog in different major cities like Shanghai, Tianjin, Wuhan, I wrote scripts of Holding breath (part 1) and Protection (part 2). I shot these two movies before Illusion (part 3) was created. The model from the first part is my friend Ming Jie, she lives in Beijing, which currently is one of the heaviest smog cities in China. She shared her story about the first few weeks of October 2014 when the thick layer of smog rolled into Beijing and turned skyscrapers into shadows and clear air into a yellow fog. “I felt someone was trying to throttle me and I didn’t know how and when I could breathe freely” She said with a shocked face thinking of a memory of 2 years ago. I got inspired by her descriptions and discussed my idea of The Air Addiction project, she got interested and volunteered to be the actor and storyteller. Before we actually shoot it, we went to the food market to observe animals struggling to breathe while they were slaughtered by a butcher. Afterwards, we joined local people to dance with face masks in the park to experience the difficulties of inhaling while doing excises. We also went to the sightseeing platform of the city to record the movement of thick yellow clouds and practiced to hold our breath as long as possible while being exposed to the smog. One day while I was watching footages of first two parts, the yellow sky outside my window distracted me at that moment, somehow I start thinking “where is our future?”, “Will the blue sky come back?” and “Do we really need to buy fresh air after 20 years?” I wrote the new script thinking of these questions and the answers, the fresh air could be defined as drugs. I did research online about how people react after they use drugs and also made an interview with a drug abuser about what he thinks and feels when he is high. Overall, I spent 1 month to shoot the last part. All video footages were shot by Nikon D300s with 2 Nikkor lenses. The voice footages were recorded by a Sony recorder and an IPhone 7.
First, in cities across China, young children and elder people are all suffering from a severe lung disease, they are more susceptible than normal adults to the PM 2.5. I felt so depressed and angry to see my family suffer, for instance my little brother had to stay in the hospital for a while during the winter because the hacking cough was too painful for him. I do not want this to become worse and I want to attract more attention of the people to change the situation together. Second, The Chinese government is taking steps to address the smog issue, but it is not effective enough. On one side, the government has restricted driving in an effort to staunch air pollution form cars and the number of coal plants under construction has tapered off and they are being moved farther from major cities. But on the other side, hundreds and thousands of new coal factories were approved to build by the government. I believe it is necessary to show leaders of this country how bad the pollution really is and how it makes people suffer. Third, the attitude of the Chinese people towards the polluted air shocked me. Most of people do not use masks when they are doing outdoors activities and they believe only soft and weak people will get sick by the smog. I wish people can always keep it in mind that living in smog is extremely dangerous and everyone should be cautious and careful.
The Air Addiction project
This project demonstrates three stages in which we can see the mental and physical reactions of people based on the length of time they have been exposed to the smog. Will it ever come so far that one day fresh air will become drugs, which makes people go crazy or even violent?
I interviewed people from different cities in China where the severity of smog is diverse. The script is based on the outcome of the interviews which contains the three stages of how smog affects the lives of people. Eventually, three videos were shot indoors and outdoors during the worst air conditions in 1 month.
The smog is an enemy which is too strong to fight against. Many people gave up the fighting and eventually came to accept it. However, people need to be warned about the horrible effects the smog has on our lives. The smog, as a quiet disaster, should never be ignored.