Enchanted Encounters Featuring Renewable Energy and the Arts
Dec, 2020

As ‘Art’ and ‘Technology’ stem from the ancient Greek word ‘Techne,’ science and the arts are seen from a single viewpoint. Leonardo da Vinci, who was a technician and an inventor, is a typical example. The mutual relationship between science and the arts is closer in contemporary art. New genres, such as media art and video art are born as media technology develops. Artworks featuring productivity and mechanisms, including dadaism and pop art, have emerged with the introduction of computers and cutting-edge technology.

As environmental pollution has become an issue and eco-friendly renewable energy technology has developed, new forms of art activities utilizing green energy technology also have been practiced vigorously. There are artworks that have not just aesthetic value but harmonize with science and technology. Among them, interesting pieces created with green renewable energy as a material and/or technique are introduced below.

  Solar Technology as Artworks!  

The twenty-first century has emerged as the age of convergence beyond creation. Industries along with the fields of science & technology, liberal arts, and social sciences emphasize the necessity of convergence to open the future, like Apple, which achieved commercial success by converging ‘humanities’ and ‘technology.’ Following this trend, the convergence of art and science is expanding. Media art, which breaks the boundaries of art and technology, and digital art, which creates virtual worlds that cannot be seen in reality, are typical examples. With recent increasing interest in environmental issues, such as climate change, more art pieces utilize eco-friendly solar energy in unique and creative ways in addition to using it as a simple electricity source.

The exploration of the center of the sun, Olafur Eliasson
(Source | olafureliasson.net)

Olafur Eliasson is a world-class Danish contemporary artist and famous for installation art employing  nature, such as water, moss, rain and rainbows, in galleries. He attained global fame with ‘The Weather Project,’ a representation of the sun, in the Turbine Hall of Tate Modern, London in 2003. ‘The exploration of the center of the sun’ is another installation that he directed in 2007 and is a huge sculpture that reflects a spectrum of light and shadow with electricity generated from solar panels installed in the roof garden of the gallery. The panes of the asymmetrical glass polyhedron shine countless rays of light just like that produced from an array of colorful stars in a galaxy. The artist also carried out the ‘Little Sun’ project that delivers solar lamps and chargers to less developed areas without electricity.

Current Window, Marjan Van Aubel
(Source | marjanvanaubel.com)

Marjan Van Aubel, a Dutch designer, presented ‘Current Window’, combining solar energy and stained glass, which evokes medieval cathedral windows. ‘Current Window’ generates electricity from sunlight using dye sensitised solar cells. Charging digital devices, such as smartphones, can be done by plugging into a port on the window frame.

The Solar Energy Field, Michael Jantzen
(Source | michaeljantzen.com)

‘The Solar Energy Field’ is a solar energy structure designed with brilliant imagination by eco-conscious artist Michael Jantzen. Electricity generated from the interaction between photovoltaic cells and photons is the inspiration for this abstract sculpture’s shape. The energy interaction is represented in three-dimensional form. It could function as a generator for the local community. On a sunny day, the solar panels installed on the top of the piece could generate 10,000 W of electricity. It could also function as a shelter from the hot sun as the lower solar panels can fold out so people can sit beneath them.  

 Magical Energy, the Power of the Wind 

L’empennage, Alexander Calder
(Source | Wikimedia)

Traditional arts are ‘static.’ Paintings are basically ‘painted’ on canvas, so they do not change. Kinetic art is one form introduced to overcome this limitation. It involves movement, conceived outside the box of fixed artworks.

Alexander Calder, an American sculptor, is a recognized name in the kinetic art field. He is an artist who studied engineering. Calder was fascinated by Piet Mondrian’s works and created an abstract sculpture to make Mondrian’s piece move. Marcel Duchamp, then Calder’s close friend, named the art piece ‘Mobile,’ being made of chain-linked flat metal pieces that dance in response to currents of air. Today’s baby mobiles originated from the ‘Mobile’. 

He used a motor to power the movements at first but then hung the mobile from the ceiling so it could make natural movements powered by wind, air currents and the activities of people. Calder’s moving pieces opened another world for art, which could not be expressed with existing static sculptures, utilizing light and shadow. 

(Source | Theo Jansen’s YouTube)

Theo Jansen, a Dutch installation and kinetic artist, studied physics like Alexander Calder. The shape of a bug inspired him to create a virtual organism on a computer, then he came up with the idea to create a mechanical life form that actually moves, leading to the creation of ‘Strandbeest.’ Strandbeest is not artificially powered, such as by an engine or a motor, and gets its energy solely from the wind. Plastic is the main material. Linking plastic tubes, string and rubber rings like joints of a human being forms an odd life-like shape and installing a sail enables it to move with the wind. For this creation, he received the Eco Art Award from UNEP (United Nation Environment Programme). 

 Solar Media Facade Illuminates Buildings 

Media Facade, that decorates outer walls of a building with LEDs and creates spectacular night views for a city, is in the spotlight. Initially, use of media facade was limited to commercial purposes, mainly for advertising and information dissemination, though its use recently has been expanding to the public art realm. However, criticism for its significant energy consumption is also on the rise. In order to address this issue, an eco-friendly media facade using a solar system was introduced.

The Zero Energy Media Wall of greenPIX
(Source | greenPIX)

greenPix was the first media facade building in Beijing, China. It was completed though a joint project by New York-based Simone Giostara Architects and global architectural engineering company Arup. The building stores electricity from solar cells during daytime and illuminates the facade using the stored energy after the sun sets. Thanks to the solar cells, greenPix produced a Zero Energy Media Wall with zero electricity charges even though it is a supersized display with 2,292 LEDs.

The Land, Merk
(Source | m.post.naver.com/merckkorea)

German science and technology company Merck revealed a media facade on a building that utilizes OPV (organic solar cell) technology to store solar energy during daytime and OLED lighting technology to illuminate the building at night at the first Seoul Biennale of Architecture and Urbanism in 2017. ‘The Land’ project was designed by German architects Nicolaus Hirsh and Michel Muller and a Thai artist Rirkrit Tiravanija. It attracted people’s attention by displaying the phrase “DO WE DREAM UNDER THE SAME SKY” on its bamboo-like facade. 

Hanwha Galleria Department Store in Apgujeong-dong, Korea
(Source | hanwhagalleria.co.kr)

Hanwha Galleria Department Store, a landmark in Seoul’s Apgujeong district, was the first media facade building in Korea. UNStudio (founded by a Dutch architect couple, Ben van Berkel and Caroline Bos) undertook the remodeling of the department store. The 4,339 LEDs on the WEST wing wall light up the neighborhood at night. Galleria Department Store installed an independent solar system and ESS to generate 43,200 kW of electricity every year. It reduces electricity charges using electricity produced with solar modules and ESS for the media facade at peak time.

As the works introduced here show, there is no limit to realizing creative ideas through the convergence of limitless renewable energy and infinite imagination. Q CELLS endeavors to build a carbon zero world with innovative technology by combining science and artistic imagination.