DUST uses virtual reality to represent and investigate the invisible sphere of urban particulate matter, which is gathered and shared by Sensor.Community, our global sensor network driven by citizen scientists dedicated to generating Open Environmental Data. We aim to shed light on the latest advancements in open data and citizen science, dispelling the common lack of awareness regarding the significant impact that both dust and data have on our personal lives.

It is estimated that one human life is lost prematurely every 5 seconds due to exposure to dust. Furthermore, it is estimated that one human life is lost prematurely every 8 minutes due to the exposure to dust originating from the production, delivery and consumption of digital data.

Particulate matter, also known as airborne dust, is universally familiar. Volcanic ashes, sandstorms, forest fires, construction residue, vehicle and industrial emissions are among the largest contributors today, but the origins of the planet, all known species and the universe itself derive from dust borne by interstellar dust clouds.

The singularity and omnipresence of dust is no longer unrivaled. In the new world, interstellar dust clouds may be overshadowed by virtual data clouds. Data has become the new essential building block. Much like dust, data is amorphous: sometimes filtered, sometimes free flowing. Like dust, data passes through us and all around us.
Glowing Globe, Rijeka, 2019

People have long understood dust may be harmful and have sought to avoid undue exposure. But until recently the definition and monitoring of the threat level depended on governments and institutions and the biases they bring to their assessment of costs and benefits.

Curiously, data now empowers people to do their own cost-benefit analysis: individuals can carry out environmental tests privately with low cost sensors and distribute the results on the internet, bringing about a culture of “citizen science”. Our work DUST enables viewers to experience virtual exposure to microscopic matter suspended in the atmosphere.

Vast amounts of data are not comprehensive as the majority of people don’t know how to apply such data and either wouldn’t have the time or inclination to use it. Therefore we aim to establish an open platform for monitoring, experiencing and communicating environmental data as meaningful information.

Many of us will produce, curate and consume such data in the very near future, promoting democratic benefits such as education, transparency and civic engagement.

1 gallery, 2 screens, 4 VR stations, 8µg/m³ PM2.5, 12µg/m³ PM10, 57 community labs, 80 countries, 12000 sensors

“For dust we are and to data we shall return.”

“…the twenty first century (is) the century of dust…”
– Jussi Parikka

  • Michael Saup
  • Andreas Erhart
  • Lukas Mocek
  • Pierre-Jean Guéno
  • Rajko Zschiegner
  • David Lackovic
  • Matevž Kolenc
  • Project Type:
    Virtual Reality, Installation
  • Genres:
    Environmental VR, Data literacy
  • Production Budget:
    40,000 USD
  • Country of Origin:
  • Language:
  • Student Project:
  • St Maria Kirche
    October 10, 2018
  • Citylab
    June 13, 2019
  • The Future of Technology for Sustainable Development
    October 22, 2019
  • Glowing Globe
    November 13, 2019
  • Transport & Climate Change Week
    March 5, 2020
  • speculum artium
    October 15, 2020
  • Deutsche Welle TV – Eco India – The Environment Magazine
    December 18, 2020
  • Particles EP, Matevz Kolenc, Nature scene records
    United Kingdom
    July 23, 2021
  • DIVE Festival
    November 4, 2021
  • Generalkonsulat
    September 3, 2022
  • Ein Wochenende fürs Klima
    November 19, 2022
  • Pochen
    September 29, 2022
  • New Media Gallery
    New Westminster
    June 4, 2023
Director Biography - Michael Saup

Michael Saup is a German artist, researcher, instrumentalist, filmmaker and coder, pioneering the use of software as an artistic medium. He studied music, computer science and visual communication. He has acted as professor at HfG/ZKM in Germany and as the founding director of the Oasis Archive of the European Union. He is the co-founder of the Open Home Project, a humanitarian initiative to help people being affected by the Fukushima nuclear crisis in Japan. Michael Saup’s work focuses on the underlying forces of nature and society; an ongoing research into what he calls the “Archaeology of Future”. Michael Saup : “Art is the Signature of our Species.” Among his works are sound driven computer animations, interactive concerts and interactive site-specific light installations. In the early 2000’s his Weapons of Mass Education workshops were given in India, Afghanistan, Morocco and Europe. He shows in major museums, festivals and theatres worldwide, and has produced collaborative works with diverse, contemporary artists. He is now based in Berlin.

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Director Statement

As an artist, filmmaker, and educator, my creative journey has included pioneering the use of software as an artform, creating virtual digital worlds and images that respond to sound, and exploring radioactivity as a future art medium. I have exposed millions of people to mesmerizing light and sound experiences, introduced environmental VR, and explored the connection between energy and art. In times of crisis, I've assisted others in locating new homes and providing support.