Discussion of renewable energy in Australia is dominated by politics and economics. There is a need to drastically cut greenhouse gas emissions, yet the aspirational discussion that is needed to progress this goal is corrupted by a political ideology determined to exploit our abundance of coal. The false spectre of ‘the carbon tax’ is used to sway the voter and economic imperatives drive cuts to renewable energy targets and research and investment funding. At the University of Newcastle’s Centre for Organic Electronics (COE) the development of organic photovoltaic cells is groundbreaking work that could dramatically reduce the cost and expand the applications for solar generated electricity. Off Grid is the outcome of a collaboration with the COE group and a response to these issues.
Set within a natural environment the work combines the unique properties of the COE product and the political overtones of the renewable energy debate. Microprocessor controlled solar film blinds are suspended in the trees and each unit acts independently of the others (as if they are indeed off-the-grid). As each unit is charged by the available sunlight it raises its charging film to metaphorically allow others to share the sun. The presence of the devices is signaled at random intervals by the sound of birdcalls evoking the peaceful ambience of a natural bushland setting and a connection with nature (as if the devices belong there). As they lower or raise their blinds the peace is assaulted by recorded rhetoric on renewable energy and climate change from political leaders past and present.
The devices and the solar film are prototypes – both have an uncertain future exposed to the elements of rain and wind in a natural setting.
Samples of birdcall: Blackbird – Little Wattlebird – Crimson Rosella
Samples of political rhetoric: John Howard – Tony Abbott – Donald Trump – Clark & Dawe (satirists)
Exhibited at the Honours graduate exhibition at the University of Newcastle Gallery, December 2016.
Recipient of a European Commision STARTS prize, Nomination category, in 2018.