Ink That Makes You Think

Discover Local Art in an Environmentally Friendly New Medium

CORE's new climate-awareness display puts pollution to good use.

By Katherine Keel February 19, 2020 Published in the Midwinter/Spring 2020 issue of Aspen Sojourner

Air-Ink creator Anirudh Sharma

At the end of February, look for four billboards installed in Roaring Fork Valley towns by the Community Office for Resource Efficiency (CORE), each conveying a powerful—and unusual—message about climate change. 

Part of CORE’s Imagine Climate initiative, the billboard project aims to reach new audiences and encourage action though nontraditional art. Created by artists Kate Howe, Kelly Peters, Chris Erickson, and Brian Colley—each affiliated with a different local arts center—the 8-foot-square signs showcase murals alongside various statements about our changing environment. 

The most attention-grabbing aspect may be what you don’t see: The art and messaging use a groundbreaking product, Air-Ink, made out of soot captured from diesel-burning engines. The process begins with a small device that fits onto a car exhaust pipe; it’s also been scaled to fit boats, trucks, cranes, and more. The carbon pollution trapped by the device is then purified and transformed into environmentally friendly ink. 

“Ink has been the most powerful form of expression for thousands of years,” says Air-Ink’s creator, Anirudh Sharma, in a short video about the product. Graviky Labs, the MIT Media Lab spinoff company that Sharma co-founded, has already created 20,500 liters of Air-Ink by capturing 2 tons of air pollution. 

Sharma will be at the billboard launch February 25 and 26 to talk about the concept of “unmaking pollution” and to give attendees a closer look at carbon particulates in a pop-up lab. Other Imagine Climate events include a presentation on mental health in the age of eco-anxiety (March 9), a conversation on increasing energy self-reliance (March 12), an art exhibit at Aspen's Skye Gallery (March 13 opening), and a performance by DJ Spooky (March 18). The billboards will be on display through March 25 (and possibly longer). 


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