‘Understanding the physical craft is a big part of understanding how to move to sustainable energy’
In 2014, multimedia artist Alex Nathanson co-curated a project called Nightlight that turned a garden in Queens into an interactive light exhibit. The team had hoped to power the exhibit by running a cable out, but that turned out not to be feasible, and “solar power was the solution.”
Since then, Nathanson has been interested in the intersection of solar power and art. He managed Sunset, a Central Park art installation that consisted of a solar-powered ice cream truck, and he now teaches classes on art and engineering. During two recent Sundays, students at Pioneer Works, an art space in Brooklyn, learned to make sun-powered robots and low-voltage sound sculptures.
According to Nathanson, many large “solar installations” are actually connected to the grid, so it’s important to him that anything claiming to be “solar-powered art” actually uses functional solar cells instead of merely speculating about how the cells could be used, or using the cells only as decoration. To do so is greenwashing that erases the possibility of using solar materials to learn about physical craft and possible solutions to climate change, he says.