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Rosten Woo: AIR

Rosten Woo


While in residence at the Exploratorium, Rosten Woo has developed Mutual Air, a public art project in downtown and West Oakland that will be on view from fall 2018 through spring 2019. This work aims to connect Oakland residents to our most ubiquitous yet invisible public commons: the air.

Mutual Air is a network of roughly thirty specially designed bells that generate a soundscape reflecting and responding to the changing composition of our local and global atmosphere. By sonifying air-quality fluctuations, Woo hopes​ to engage the public in an experiential understanding of climate science and how aspects of our atmosphere, while a shared resource, reflect socioeconomic disparities.

Mutual Air chimes will be on view at the Oakland Museum of California, Chabot Space and Science Center, and the Exploratorium starting September 30, 2018. The network will grow throughout October and November, with more chime sensors being installed in public, private, and community locations. Organizations or individuals interested in hosting a sensor should visit for more information.

Woo also produced a series of short films exploring the social and political dimensions of air-quality data gathering. The series Common Sensing: Who Measures and Why? will screen in our Fisher Bay Observatory Gallery 6, where we host a gamut of environmental sensors that measure such things as tide, current, CO2, ocean salinity, etc. This film series ​illuminates​ the need to answer some big questions: Why do we build sensors? Where do we put them? What’s involved in creating, maintaining, and getting people to pay attention to them? What effects can sensors have in the world?

Rosten Woo is an artist, designer, and writer living in Los Angeles. His projects aim to help people understand complex systems, reorient themselves to places, and participate in group decision-making. He acts as a collaborator with and consultant to grassroots organizations and produces public artworks about the politics of place for cultural institutions and local and regional governments. His work has been exhibited at the Cooper-Hewitt Design Triennial, the Venice Architecture Biennale, and various parks, piers, public housing developments, and shopping malls. He is co-founder and former executive director of the Center for Urban Pedagogy (CUP), winner of the 2016 National Design Award for institutional achievement. Street Value, his book about race and retail urban development, was published by Princeton Architectural Press in 2009.

Mutual Air is a project by Rosten Woo and the Exploratorium with key partnerships and cooperation from the Oakland Museum of California, Chabot Space and Science Center, City of Oakland Public Art Program and Cultural Affairs Division, and the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project. Mutual Air is generously supported by the Kenneth Rainin Foundation’s Open Spaces Program. IoT platform in-kind support provided by Particle.