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Proximate and distant, micro and macro—climate change troubles human perception and defies conception. The Madrid-based artist Santiago Sierra’s 52 Canvases Exposed to Mexico City’s Air—on view in the Saligman Family Atrium at the Kemper Art Museum—presents a visualization of the toxicity of contemporary urban life, employing art as direct evidence of airborne contaminants. Projects such as Sierra’s invite us to think about the impact of climate change in its tactile dimensions as well as in its more abstract effects. Essential to Sierra’s artwork is an understanding of climate degradation as intersectional—material and sociopolitical—recognizing the systems of power responsible for the environmental crisis and making us see anew not just the air but also the policies that contaminate our bodies.  

Panel participants come from a range of fields, including art history, environmental studies, engineering, and public health to discuss how visual representations of environmental contamination function to encourage contemplation of the viewers’ position within a polluted world as well as the tensions that arise from such representations. Speakers include Ila Sheren, associate professor of Art History & Archaeology in Arts & Sciences and associate director for the Center for the Study of Race, Ethnicity & Equity; Suzanne Loui, lecturer in Environmntal Studies in Arts & Sciences; and Jay Turner, head of the Division of Engineering Education, Vice Dean for Education, and James McKelvey Professor of Engineering Education.  

Free and open to the public. Registration is requested. 

Watch the video recording.

ASL Interpretation

American Sign Language interpretation can be arranged for public events upon request. This service is free, but we ask for two weeks' notice. Requests can be made by contacting


This event is supported in part by Washington University’s Center for the Study of Race, Ethnicity & Equity and Center for the Environment.

Image Credit

Santiago Sierra, 52 lienzos expuestos al aire de la Ciudad de México (52 Canvases Exposed to Mexico City’s Air), 2019, installation view. Courtesy of the artist and LABOR; photograph by Ramiro Chávez. © 2023 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VEGAP, Madrid.