The Smoking Lamp is an object that amplifies the personal choice of smoking or not smoking in a public environment. The lamp is deliberately paradoxical, at once inviting the public to smoke whilst at the same time signalling their transgression. Designed as a funnel that terminates with a ring of light, the lamp changes from a bright white to a warm pink if it detects nicotine smoke beneath it.
Official prohibition of smoking in public spaces has a history as long as tobacco usage itself. The last society to ban smoking was the Nazi regime in Germany. As a consequence of such prohibitive measures, smoking has been repeatedly used a symbolic protest against political oppression and to express liberation. Today, as intolerance of smoking in public increases, the smoking lamp is designed for tobacco’s new ambiguous status: at a moment when smoking is not quite yet a sign of social rebellion but the possibilities to take a few puffs in public are being greatly reduced.
If the cultural historian Wolfgang Schivelbusch observed that “smoking creates both a feeling of activity in leisure and one of leisure in the midst of activity”, then the Smoking Lamp serves as a device to augment smoking activity to the point of absurdity. Neither for, nor against, the lamp simply magnifies the language and culture of smoking, amplifying the personal choice that each individual makes.
The smoking Lamp is part of a larger artistic research into the question is how to generate real-time consciousness of air pollution. The effects of contemporary pollution are slow and imperceptible: consume now, pay later : a single cigarette will not kill, but a continuous usage might. Like all the projects from Pollstream series, it provides a mechanism to reduce the time delay between our actions and their effect, so that cause and effect are scaled into the real-time decision making process, posing the question: to pollute or not to pollute? Smoking Lamp literally illuminates the ugly stuff that goes into our lungs - the cigarette smoke itself. And as vapour particles are translated into red light and noisy oscillations one becomes aware of those little clouds we inhale and exhale. As a design, a product, an installation, a work of art, it does neither offer humiliation nor affirmation for the smoker - it turns the beast into the beauty and amplifies our choice - here and now.
For HeHe, the city is an endless source of possibilities, not only to build the new but also to exercise critique, to reprogram its buildings and infrastructures, to make the invisible visible and to create new meanings which weave stories for its inhabitants. The everyday existing artifacts found in the city, such as public transport, communication systems, advertising, pollution monitoring apparatus or building materials, are rich points of reference that can be reverse engineered, redesigned and scripted. Their propositions are utopian, often posing as products ready for consumption, but are also real, functioning temporarily at the moment of operation.