Cultures of Atmosphere

Event Recording
December 6, 2023
7pm EST

In this 90 minute virtual roundtable, panelists discuss the ways that artists and community members figure, represent, respond to, and participate in an atmospheric commons. The event focuses on Southwestern Pennsylvania as a region where conditions of toxicity and industrial pollution have significantly impacted social and ecological communities, and where local conversations regarding shared atmospheres have generated international public discourse and environmental legislation. Discussants include filmmaker Tony Buba, artist Erin Mallea, community activist Alli Greenlief, Data & Systems Manager at the Center for Coalfield Justice; and historian Brian Charlton of the Donora Historical Society and Smog Museum, facilitated by artists Lindsey french and Alex Young. 

This presentation serves as a launch event for the Olfactory Media Library project, a mobile olfactory and atmospheric sensing station supported in part by funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, with additional funding from the Frank-Ratchye Further Fund at the Frank-Ratchye STUDIO for Creative Inquiry. Additional support for this event comes from the Donora Smog Museum, the Center for Coalfield Justice, and the University of Regina.


NBRFOF – North Braddock Residents For Our Future – Our Fight Against Fracking

Tony Buba started making films about Braddock in 1972. He has completed 5 featurefilms and 50 shorts. In 2020, Buba’s 1988 film, Lightning Over Braddock, was named as one of the 62 most influential documentary films ever made by Richard Brody of NewYorker Magazine. Buba has received Guggenheim, Rockefeller, and NEA fellowships. Buba’s films have been screened in cinemas, universities and museums around the world including MOMA, Whitney and The Carnegie. Currently Buba has two films onexhibit at the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh. They are Mon Valley Trilogy and 40°24.2983’ N 79° 58.251’ W


Donora Historical Society and Smog Museum

Brian Charlton is a retired teacher, historian, archivist and curator at the Donora Historical Society and Smog Museum. In this presentation, he will share a small selection of images and ephemera from the museum’s collection depicting how industry and industrial emissions have played a central role in the community’s identity  before, during, and after the Donora smog event. Through these images, he will introduce a very brief history of the Donora Smog and its impact on environmental action, thought, and clean air locally and around the world. As the museum signage suggests, “Clean Air Started Here.”


Center for Coalfield Justice

It is known that disadvantaged communities bear the brunt of environmental damages while not playing a principal role in the creation of them. Southwestern Pennsylvania's Washington and Greene counties are no different, as industry has a profound effect on every aspect of life and culture. Through reflections from Center for Coalfield Justice staff and members, this discussion will connect how, whether voluntary or involuntary, we experience and are impacted by atmospheric commons.

Alli Greenlief is the Data & Systems Manager for the Center for Coalfield Justice, an environmental and social justice nonprofit based out of Washington and Greene Counties in southwestern Pennsylvania.  CCJ works to improve the oversight of fossil fuel extraction and use, to protect public and environmental health, and to educate, empower, and organize residents. With an education in library science, archives, and data management, she loves that she can use her skill set to support an organization that protects the place she loves and calls home.


Permissible Dose

Permissible Dose is an exhibition and short film that explores the body as sensor, alarm, and site of chemical and environmental entanglements through the lens of regional Pittsburgh air quality, corporate polluters, and community monitoring.

Erin Mallea is a Pittsburgh-based multidisciplinary artist exploring the past and present of particular microcosms as entry points into larger social and environmental conditions. She received a MFA from Carnegie Mellon University (2019) and is an Assistant Professor of Art at the Pennsylvania State University School of Visual Arts.