In 2014, multimedia artist Alex Nathanson co-curated a project called Nightlight that turned a garden in Queens into an interactive light display. The team had hoped to power the exhibit by laying a cable, but that was not feasible, and "solar energy was the solution."
Since then, Nathanson has been interested in the intersection of solar energy and art. He ran Sunset, an art installation in Central Park that consisted of a solar-powered ice cream truck, and now teaches art and engineering classes. On two recent Sundays, students at Pioneer Works, an art space in Brooklyn, learned how to make solar-powered robots and low-voltage sound sculptures.
According to Nathanson, many large "solar installations" are actually connected to the grid, so it is important to him that anything that claims to be "solar powered art" actually uses functional solar cells rather than just speculating on how they might be. use the cells, or using the cells only as decoration. Doing so is a "green hoax" that erases the possibility of using solar materials to learn about physical art and possible solutions to climate change, he says.
In Nathanson's class, the students, who need no prior engineering experience, used recycled solar cells from Jameco that came in a variety of shapes. The sound project had three parts: building the sound circuit, building the solar panel itself, and then connecting the two. To execute this, students learned engineering concepts (such as series and parallel circuits, volts and amps, production calculation), as well as technical skills (such as using a soldering iron).
The final product produces a series of electronic sounds when placed in sunlight, depending on how the circuit and panels are constructed.
The sculptures came in various sizes. Some are made of acrylic and look more like mosaics. Others were made of balsa wood and had a more triangular shape.
The week before, the students had built a different art project: tiny, solar-powered robots.
Nathanson also maintains Solar Power for Artists, an archive of other projects. These range from Low Tech magazine, a publication that runs on an off-grid solar powered mini-computer, to the 1957 do-nothing solar machine, which is one of the earliest examples of the use of sunlight. to generate electricity, which then powers a Whimsical Art Installation.
"Understanding the physical trade is an important part of understanding how to move to sustainable energy," says Nathanson. “Many people didn't know how to weld before this class. I want to give them the tools to experiment and make things work. "
Article in English
By Angela Chen