Look, we all know why we need to begin using renewable energy sources. It’s a no-brainer. We read about it in school when we were nine and everything around just hammers home that message. It’s the need of the hour. So why, you may ask, is it not all over the place already? Well, there are lots of reasons. For one, our most technologically advanced solar cells which are available in the market store about… 30% of the energy they receive. That efficiency is a pile of horse shit. Then there is the cost. They are steadily dropping because of a range of subsidies and stuff from governments but fossil fuels are just cheaper.
The main reason, though, is that people just don’t want to get of their arses and do it. They’d rather do it “one day” or something. We procrastinate. We delay. We do it “later”.
That’s the context I see the following art pieces in. They provide tangible value to their surroundings, and they are jaw droppingly beautiful. They force the viewer not only to marvel at the innovative thinking, but also about the ways in which our thinking towards saving our environment can take. Some make sure to switch off the lights before leaving a room. Some make sure not to use plastics. Others make steel poles which capture sunlight and reflect it around. These art pieces then are not only just for consumption, like all art really. It stops you in your tracks and makes you think. At least, it makes me think. So fuck any other preliminaries and here we go.
Say hi to Sarah Hall, the coolest thing since stained glass.
What’s the coolest thing since stained glass? Stained glass that puts in a photovoltaic cell between the two panes to create beautiful myriads of colour.
Wind Tower, UBC
Some place, man. Some bloody place that is nowhere near where I live.
Hall is a Toronto based artist who’s been staining glass and stuff since 1980. At the turn of the millennium she was introduced to the German engineer Christof Erban who had recently developed some wacky plan that involved putting solar cell between layers of glass. Hall took that idea and has done some truly spectacular stuff. She’s done more than 200 projects in schools, museums, towers and other places where stained glass goes. Take for example the wind tower. Wind catchers are traditional Persian architectural designs that would ensure ventilation. Hall’s stained glass piece takes centre stage in the wind tower erected in the University of British Columbia (which coincidentally becomes UBC.) It’s part of a library and shit. I can type anything here and you won’t even look at it, because you’re looking at the tower. I could smash my head onto the keyboard.
Have a look at some of her other stuff here.
Maaaaay I interest you in a night garden?
Looks kinda weird for a solar energy project, right? Wrong. C’mon, storing solar energy in flower shaped structures that light up the night makes perfect sense. This was first shown at the Jerusalem Light Festival in 2009, which must’ve been quite a show. There was an accompanying soundtrack and everything. All the flowers light up in different colours, making it seem like some weird forest which looks stunning. Created by O*GE with the help of the Israel Electrical Corporation we have tulips, lotus blossoms and dewdrops, made of Hebron glass, (which is a nice touch), metal mesh and steel. Here is a video that suffers from, like, being shot at night but still showcases the ethereal beauty of the garden counterpoised in darkness very well. Also, the petals flap. Beautiful.
shut the fuck up and take my mon- WHAT DO YOU MEAN THIS SHIT IS FREE?
A tree provides shade from the sun. This one also gives a sparkling light show in the night, providing light to poor neighbourhoods that lack street lights. And it’s all solar. I don’t know what part of the SonUmbra project is the most delightful. Is it the patterns of light extending along the jagged lines of the tree? Is it the fact that it was made to provide light to poor neighbourhoods? Or is it that it is dancing?
The SonUmbra tree has motion sensors, which allow it to react to how the people in front of it are moving. Originally part of an exhibition in Sunderland, the developers, Loop.pH want it to become a light source in the future.
Basically with the SonUmbra, every single person walking nearby becomes a part of the experience. Everyone helps in creating this experience. Fantastic.
Solar Intersections is a sculpture installation by Robert Behrens in Davis, California. It looks like a few lines extending into the sky. You know, just your typical 70 feet steel pole. It’s painted with some special kind of adhesive paint that allows solar panels to be placed everywhere on its surface. The installation collects solar energy and then, well, art.
The whole thing basically works on principles of reflection. So if you stand in a different place, it looks a different colour. And if you move, well… the colours dance. The installation was set up along with its surroundings, myrtle trees and flowers which are (somehow) always in bloom.
i want to make a that’s what she said joke, but I’m too busy staring at these poles …. that’s what she said.
Behrens is a pretty fucking big deal. Look at his Solar Borealis installation outside Fairbanks Airport in Alaska, done in 1985. It’s pretty simple in theory, just a structure that reflects sunlight, but looking at it the apparent simplicity of design should really be sandwiched somewhere between the 34th and the 35th O in your woah. wooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooosimple?oooooooah
I don’t know what the solar arch is all about, considering that I, along with most of the world, don’t live in Alaska, but Kenelm Philip, who took that photograph (after trying for 27 years, bless him, that’s a story) described the archway (and I’m totally bastardising adn’s bastardised version of his interview) as metal sheathed in a “smooth layer of clear plastic coating” and covered in “quarter to half-inch squares” that bear cross-hatching, forming four triangles through which light is emitted. Small horizontal lines “split the colors of the sunlight up and down, and the side triangles have lines that go up and down and they split the sun sideways”.( I had to hold a hand to my finger so that I couldn’t add a u to “color”, ugh, it looks so ugly, I can’t believe I had to type that)
Um. Yeah. Simple.
And then there’s Deedee Morrison (who reminds me of Dexter, so I’m smiling right now) with her Seed-pod installation in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Inspired by designs by the likes of Ernst Haeckel (a contemporary of Darwin’s, who not only discovered thousands of new species but also drew them). She’s into a lot of things, like laser cutters, industrial metals and you guessed it, the light. There’s an eighteen foot tower next to the installation, which stores solar energy in batteries which power the installation when there isn’t any light. The installation isn’t a high consumer anyway, a day’s worth of energy collected is enough for three, so. There’s a lot going on with the arty bit here, so I’m just gonna get to the nitty gritties.
dexter never thought of THAT!
This isn’t Deedee’s only foray into solar art, either. She’s also got a “Sun-catcher” in Clearwater, Florida. The fifteen feet tall sculpture is made out of recycled aluminum and there’s more laser cutting involved (she really could have been wiping out banks) there are yellow Lucite panels fitted in. At night the Sun-catcher lights up, and lights everything around it too.
I’m not going to conclude this with some pithy message. The art pieces do that by themselves. But if you happen to be aware of any nice such pieces of solar art, do share it with me. Ta.