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8 November 2002

London smog remembered

“SMOG”, an exhibition inspired by the London’s Great Smog will open at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) exactly 50 years to the week that saw the capital devastated by one of the greatest environmental disasters in history.

Seven artists will exhibit new works inspired by the ideas of fog, smog, pollution, fear, suffocation and reduced visibility at the exhibition, which opens on 10 December and which runs until 14 February 2003. The artists exhibiting in Smog are Beth Harland, Richard Layzell, Carroline List, Chris Meigh-Andrews, Jacqueline Morreau, Mario Rossi and Mare Tralla, The exhibition is curated by Pam Skelton and Tony Fletcher.

For a whole week in 1952, beginning on 4 December, London suffered its worst ever smog when levels of sulphur and particulates reached lethal concentrations, killing an estimated 12,000 people. Half a Century later, the event remains a reference point around the world for researchers and teachers in public health and epidemiology.

Although pea-soup fogs seldom occur in London these days, their almost romantic association with the city, and with clandestine happenings, changing identities and nostalgic vistas, are still part of London’s global image. Many works by artists and writers as diverse as James Abbot McNeil Whistler, Claude Monet, Robert Louis Stevenson, Charles Dickens and Arthur Conan Doyle have been inspired by fog and smog and have helped to create that sense of the uncanny that underlies the spectre of 19th and early 20th century London. At the beginning of a new Century, air pollution in our cities is mainly of the invisible photochemical variety and, pervasive though it is, it no longer inspires art or urban spectacle: yet the spectre of the ‘fog’ continues to fascinate and intrigue.

The exhibition will open on the evening of 10 December with a performance, Caught for Breath, by Richard Layzell, one of Britiain’s leading performance artists.

For more details on this and other exhibitions at LSHTM, visit the related links section on the right.

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