The Ephemeral Machine
Submission to the 2014 Land Art Generator Initiative Copenhagen design competition
Artist Team: Alfio Faro, Denise Leclerc
Artist Location: Paris, France
Energy Technologies: thin film photovoltaic (balloons), APB 350 (Autonomous Power Buoy® by OPT)
The Ephemeral Machine combines an image of the historic steam engines produced by Burmeister & Wain (characterized by massive volumes with pistons moving vertically) with the contemporary vertical elements of the site (chimneys, cranes, silos, and antennas), resulting in an evocative energy installation and landscape artwork.
The movement, and energy produced is the substantial element of this installation, while the form and the materials of its components are nothing more than ephemeral temporary conditions. This 120-meter high installation occupies the sea portion in front of the former shipyard and is composed of more than 550 vertical elements. Each element is divided into an underwater structure affixed to the sea floor, a floating buoy-like raft, and a transparent vertical helium balloon connected by a steel wire to the raft. The entire system is easily set in motion by the waves and the action of the wind on the balloons. Rafts on the surface of the water are accessible to visitors, the actions of which contribute another element of motion and energy production.
The Ephemeral Machine utilizes existing technologies: buoy-type wave converters and semitransparent photovoltaic film. The balloons and the rafts are conceived to counterbalance each other in order to generate soft and gentle movements.
From a landscape point of view, the artwork creates a dense volume—suggesting the shape of engines but also the voluminous encumbrance of present-day cargos and sea liners). However, the form dematerializes due to the lightness and transparency of the balloons, which are the only visible elements from urban-scale distances.