· October 2009

October 2009

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Last week we spent four days in Munich participating in the exhibit and panel discussions at Overtures – Cultural realms in the post-fossil age. It was a part of the larger Klimaherbst ongoing series of events and took place at the Glockenbachwerkstatt. Elizabeth was there as the Dubai based representative of Hot Spots and I was offered to sit in as an interdisciplinary participant which meant that I got to go around to all of the artists and have really fascinating discussions with each of them about their work, the world, art and climate change. It stimulated many ideas for everyone about new projects and collaborations. artcircolo kunstprojekt coordinated the event and Serafine Lindemann, artcircolo’s director did a wonderful job of organizing everything and leading the two day panel discussion. It was a part of artcircolo’s larger art series, overtures.

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The artists that participated in Overtures were:
Karin Bergdolt (D) with Ann T. Rosenthal (USA) and Elizabeth Monoian (Dubai): Hot Spots, Gas Station Memorials
Empfangshalle (D): Ja du bist es, (Yes you’re the one), intervention with the Lehman Sisters
René Francisco (Cuba): Intercambio Buenavista, social art project
Andrej Kamnik (Slowenia): Wind Model, Installation
Kalle Laar (D): Call me! and ethics disco, sound installation

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The Hot Spots exhibit set up in the Tesla Motors showroom down the street. Seeing that showroom was like a glance into the future. In fact since most of the world does not yet know about the fact that there are indeed very high performance electric vehicles driving the streets at 500km per 45 minute charge in 2009 (meaning today) it was sort of like a pre-museum where on display were the relics of the future. Bearing witness to the tangible revolution right there in downtown Munich was quite inspiring and instilled in me a sense of possibilities and hope.

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Of the ideas that came to me out of the events and conversations were things like:
1. a sound installation that harnesses the energy of a crowd screaming and uses it to run an electronic display.
2. a poster campaign that would work off of the inherent nationalistic instincts of people with images of carbon intense activities and objects that are for example “Un-American”.
3. a sound installation that harnesses the exponential effects of the oscillating resonance of mass in order to output more energy than the input energy.
4. land art sculptures to power the 2018 Munich winter Olympics.

Everyone was riffing off of everyone else and it was a hotbed of idea exchange. The panel discussions were really engaging – the first day was spent talking about the individual artists’ work and the second day was focused on discussing ideas for collaborative projects.

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Some of the other interdisciplinary participants:
Marian Bichler
Dr. Andrea Zell
Gunnar Braun
Sabine Nallinger
Dr. Martin Richartz
Dr. Bernd Wiemann

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At a recent conference we attended a certain well-meaning corporation handed out marketing materials promoting their energy-saving product. This is an extremely laudable effort and the company should be congratulated for producing and marketing a line of products whose adoption will have such a positive effect on the entire world by reducing electricity demand and the associated carbon emissions from electricity generation. That being said, it would be more in keeping with the theme to also take a sustainable approach to the marketing effort of the product.

Unfortunately, in this case, the standard goodie-bags that were handed out at the conference were made of plastic fibers and included 4 glossy and off-gassing publications on non-recycled paper. But what was most disturbing was a polyurethane foam rubber “squeezy” with a “green” logo on one side and a smiley face on the other, individually sheathed in its own open-ended little plastic bag. Certainly these toys will all end up in landfills within a week after distribution. By supporting the manufacturing of these wasteful and toxic throw-away gifts, the marketing is not living up to the mission of the product.
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Polyurethane (PU) is mainly used in insulation and soft/foamed products like carpet underlay. It uses several hazardous intermediates and creates numerous hazardous by-products. These include phosgene, isocyanates, toluene, diamines, and the ozone-depleting gases methylene chloride and CFCs, as well as halogenated flame retardants and pigments. The burning of PU releases numerous hazardous chemicals such as isocyanates, carbon dioxide, hydrogen cyanide, PAHs and dioxins. via

Throughout history there have been many times when people have taken it upon themselves to harness the power of nature (usually wind and river) in order to pump water or run millstones. By doing so with the resources at hand, the works are crafted painstakingly over time with care and attention to detail. They are organic. They are beautiful. They are no less than works of art.

Most recently we have the example of William Kamkwamba, a young man from the central Malawian village of Masitala. Alone and with the rest of his friends and family wondering what it was he was up to, he fashioned a 12 watt windmill out of scraps and spare parts that were lying around his village.

It’s quite a stunning and beautiful object.

William Kamkwamba has rightly become an overnight sensation and his amazing story will certainly inspire action. The visual impact that his creations have on people and the emotions that they stir cannot be discounted as a powerful part of that story. We need to bring water and electricity to every village in the world, for with electricity and water provided continuously by nature, a people can become free and prosper. We’d like to see the outcome of the Land Art Generator Initiative Design Competition produce some examples of designs for the landscape that with proper funding could be constructed anywhere in the world. To be placed in villages, they should be beautiful and inspiring to gaze upon.

Some examples of other natural energy projects that have been constructed throughout history survive today. Some are still functioning. All of them are exquisite by the nature of their having been created with materials at-hand and of-the-earth.


Architecture of the Islamic World, Its History and Social Meaning; Page 188; Edited by George Michell; 1978 Thames & Hudson Ltd, London
This one is a wind mill in Sistan, Iran used to grind grains. It is one in a series of similar structures with openings toward the prevailing wind direction. The vertical vanes comprised of reeds turn the axle that is connected to the millstones in the rooms below.

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