Aeolian Electric: Wind-Powered Sculptures

by , 10/11/08

aeolian electric, solar one, wind powered sculptures, wind sculptures, homemade wind sculptures, elliott montgomery, garth zeglin, cade peterson, eric forman, dominic muren, benjamin renneberg

Although wind turbines are a well-known green energy source, they remain an invention far removed from the public eye. However, Elliott Montgomery’s recent Aeolian Electric Project at Solar One, a New York-based center devoted to promoting “green energy, arts, and education,” worked to break down the barriers between energy users and energy makers. The exhibition began when a small group of artists were commissioned first to participate in a turbine design clinic, and then to contemplate the relationship between people and wind energy with the goal to develop their very own wind turbine. The result was a handful of wind-powered sculptures that made up the exhibit at Aeolian Electric, where visitors could grasp the artists’ solutions– and give it a twirl themselves.

aeolian electric, solar one, wind powered sculptures, wind sculptures, homemade wind sculptures, elliott montgomery, garth zeglin, cade peterson, eric forman, dominic muren, benjamin rennebergGarth Zeglin’s Traveler

Elliott Montgomery begins the dialogue with his Wind Tree. The turbine was linked to a record player, providing it with the power that allowed visitors to hear the record speeding up and slowing down as the gusts gained and waned in strength. The constant audio feedback rendered the invisible force of wind audible, bringing viewers a new way to understand how much energy, or in this case wind, it takes to power a simple record player.

Two other pieces examined the nature of our relationship to wind: Joshua Space‘s Mirror Sail and Eric Foreman‘s Constrained Flight Structure No.3. Mirror Sail was exactly what it sounds like, a spinning set of mirrors, the perspectives on each determined by the breeze (in some ways, the wind creates the funhouse of sorts). Constrained Flight Structure manipulated an amputated set of bird wings: a comment, perhaps, on both our fascination with flight, and traditional turbines’ mixed reputation for killing birds.

Garth Zeglin, displayed information about his personal wind turbine Traveler, designed to collapse like a tent and be carried by a nomadic individual looking to create their own energy. The same idea of the DIY wind turbine was also evident in the untitled work of Dominic Muren and Benjamin Renneberg, who sought to augment the expensive, ultra-efficient standard with a basic homemade prototype- showing that experimentation with wind power is not only for the professionals, but for anyone interested.

The modern wind turbine is quite often uniform in design: several blades around a basic rotor and although there have been recent new designs, Cade Peterson‘s The Wonders of Nature takes the aesthetics of wind turbine design one step further. Combining a brightly colored pinwheel with a small light, his wind-powered sculpture is intended to resemble a kaleidoscope.

Aeolian Electric was intended to make the process of creating energy from wind more accessible to the public by breaking down concepts relating to wind energy, wind aesthetic, wind philosophy and social meaning. Looking forward to what comes of these spinning solutions in the future!

+ Solar One

Photos courtesy of Elliott Montgomery

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  1. VertCycle October 13, 2008 at 8:23 pm

    Before we judge, I\’ll offer some more background on the Aeolian Electric project;

    The intent of Aeolian Electric was to spark thought around wind power – particularly from an artist\’s perspective; not to develop technological solutions. There are plenty of engineers researching turbine technology. These artists were chosen not for expertise in wind generator design, but for their diverse artistic approaches. They were challenged to build sculptures that provoked thought, raised questions, and maybe even captured the imagination of viewers – around the theme of wind. They used commonly available materials, accessible techniques and tools, lots of experimentation, and attempted to create turbines in a very DIY fashion that could be carried farther by anyone interested in trying. Though not all of the pieces were active on Saturday evening, they each conveyed concepts or statements unusual to common wind generators.

    One of the most important things to take from this show, or any piece of art, are the questions raised. Instead of looking for direct answers regarding \”wind technology and design,\” look at these as gestures, and ask yourself how a wind generator might play into our lives as a thing of intrigue, beauty or curiosity in addition to just generating electricity.

    Better yet, I challenge you to go out to your garage or down in your basement and to build your own generator. I assure you it\’s not easy. But you (and many others) may come up with innovative ideas that could potentially change how people connect to renewable energy sources.

    We need many people working, thinking, and learning about renewables to bring on the changes that will address our energy crisis. Spurring thought and ideas among us is the first step to making that change.


    Elliott Montgomery

  2. bolivar13 October 13, 2008 at 12:41 pm

    I actually attended this exhibit and it was extremely disappointing to put it mildly. It looked like few of the artists bothered to put in more than a couple of days worth of work on their submissions. It was on the waterfront and there was a breeze but only Mirror Sail and The Wonders of Nature were actually moving. The most intriguing of the submissions, Traveler had been removed and replaced with a sign that had a couple of pictures and some text. None of the submissions seemed to me to offer any new thought or insight into wind technology or design. Making something pretty that moves in the wind does not necessarily add to the discussion. I left from the exhibit more discouraged than encouraged.

  3. IBMMIB October 11, 2008 at 2:07 pm

    It is great to see people build inventions that create suitable alternatives to carbon energy on the go. If this venture can instill creativity into function then science will be harmony.

  4. internetswasyes October 11, 2008 at 1:40 pm

    These sculptures are beautiful, and I like that they serve the double purpose of both harnessing energy, and also raise awareness about the possibilities of green energy design.

    There is another attractive wind turbine that they are going to use in portland that follows some of these same ideas.

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