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Catalyst, Dundee

Date uploaded: February 3, 2009

Catalyst is a new permanent work commissioned by Dundee City Council from Scottish artists Dalziel + Scullion for a city centre site. Catalyst takes the form of a draped life-sized car that has been cast in catalytic cement, which absorbs airborne pollutants.

The draped form references a classical heritage, but this work is firmly rooted in contemporary times. With no specific model of car identified, the work represents a universal icon, a motif of the 20th century that went hand in hand with a modernist vision of the future, and the right to travel independently and unencumbered through the free world. In the 21st century however, our relationship with transport is changing, curbed by our knowledge of the complex impact it has had on our society and environment. The artwork is presented on an angled plinth on which a scientific formula is inscribed, an unraveling of the catalytic chemistry silently at work as the air around this car is in a continual state of change and transformation.

The artwork is made using a new type of concrete material that performs a strange alchemy, hidden within its make up is a catalytic material (nano-crystalline grade of titanium dioxide) that reacts with light to trigger the molecules of air borne pollutants, such as nitric oxides, carbon monoxide and sulphur monoxide to break apart. Daylight initiates a reaction where the active concrete surface converts harmful nitrogen oxides into harmless nitrate this in turn reacts with the calcium hydroxide of the concrete surface and drains off with the next rainfall into soils where plants can use it. This is the first time this material has been used in the UK; the material was originally formulated to be used as paving in congested urban areas to improve air quality.

Visit www.catalystdundee.com/index.html

Concrete car, Catalyst, Dalziel and Scullion. Photo: DalzielScullion

Concrete car, Catalyst, Dalziel and Scullion. Photo: DalzielScullion