Chinese artist Wang Renzheng vacuums up Beijing's smog for 100 days and turns it into a brick

Shenzhen-based artist Wang Renzheng walking down a Beijing street with vacuum cleaner in tow.
Shenzhen-based artist Wang Renzheng walking down a Beijing street with vacuum cleaner in tow. PHOTO: WEIBO
A collage of the places in Beijing that Mr Wang has visited.
A collage of the places in Beijing that Mr Wang has visited. PHOTO: WEIBO

Armed with a powerful vacuum cleaner and clad in a Bane-esque mask, one man in China has created the ultimate artistic symbol in his fight against Beijing's latest environmental "airpocalypse".

Meet performance artist Wang Renzheng, better known by his moniker Nut Brother, who has for the past 100 days been collecting the toxic smog blanketing the Chinese capital.

 

Mr Wang, 34, first announced his "Dust Plan" in July and hopes to create awareness of the country's coal-induced pollution amid a backdrop of the worst smog to hit northern China in more than a year.

The grey haze has forced thousands of factories to shut down, kept children from school and flights to be disrupted as the concentration of PM2.5 hit 634 micrograms per cubic metre - more than 25 times the maximum recommended by the World Health Organisation.

Mr Wang's one-man crusade involves roaming various landmarks in Beijing - including Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City and the China Central Television tower - and sucking up the noxious dust with a 1,000-watt industrial vacuum cleaner.


Mr Wang seen near Tiananmen Square. PHOTO: WEIBO

Purchased thanks to a 10,000-yuan donation (S$2,206) from a restaurant owner, the ungainly machine can reportedly suck up as much air as 62 people can breathe in a day.

The Hubei native, who is based in Shenzhen, then mixed the accumulated dust with red clay to produce a single brick.


Mr Wang holding up the brick made from the smog he collected. PHOTO: WEIBO

"I want to show this absurdity to more people," Mr Wang told The Guardian. "I want people to see what we cannot avoid or ignore this problem and must take real action."

 

But while his unusual efforts have made him an instant celebrity on social media, The New York Times said Mr Wang had dismissed suggestions that he could become a spokesman for environmental change. Instead, his aim is philosophical and spiritual in nature, as he likened it to "Sisyphus (a mythic Greek king) rolling his giant stone".

"There is no use, but it can make more people think about the issue," he added.

Mr Wang's smog-inspired project is not the only high-profile one to make headlines in China. Last October, female Beijing-based artist Kong Ning made a wedding dress out of 999 gauze masks.