Vitiosae vigilis is a synthetic animal from the future. It’s an environmental sentinel created to work as a human enhancement to sense the invisible pollution in the air. This companion is a wearable bio-monitor, that breathes the same air as it’s owner. Since this organism is much weaker than humans, it reveals the effects of long-time exposure to air pollution in less time.
Modern air pollution is invisible to our senses as we are not able to see, feel, smell or hear it. It is also invisible to our bodies, because it bypasses our body defenses and reflexes such as coughing or itching. The threat of long-term exposure to air pollution is also invisible, causing asthma, Alzheimer, or reduced fetal growth.
Vitiosae vigilis is inspired by the "canary in the coal mine" to speculatively explore the use of personal living biomonitors. Narratives are developed to identify how it possibly supports the day-to-day sensing of air pollution. The suffering companion is questioned as a way to stimulate human emotional responses to threatening health issues, going beyond the lack of empathy provided by non-living monitors.
The design is accompanied by an animal carrier, booklet and film. The narratives were developed upon interviews with residents of Old Kent Road and environmental scientists from Kings College, as well as by carrying out experiments on alternative sensing methods such as leaf yeast and chemical fabric dyes, with assistance from the Bio-hacking Group at London Hackspace.
Experiments with pink leaf yeast and chemical fabric dyes sensitive to atmospheric pollutants: