Although we can't normally see the wind, we can feel its presence - however Colorado-based visual artist Patrick Marold has figured out a way to translate the wind's movement into light. Using LEDs, polycarbonate tubes, and mini wind turbines, Marold has been documenting the shape of the wind through his Windmill Project. His installations involve hundreds of mini wind generators planted in breezy landscapes - as the wind blows across them, the LEDs light up based on the strength of the wind and where it blows. His project draws attention to the use of clean renewable energy and our interaction with the landscape and natural forces.
Marold first started his project in 2000 when he was living on a farm north of Reykjavik. With plentiful wind and lots of long dark nights, Marold came up with an idea to be able to watch the wind. Rigging up some crude wind turbines from refrigerator fan blades and dynamo generators for bicycles, he began placing these units out in the landscape to capture the wind. Over time, his mini wind turbine design evolved to using translucent polycarbonate tubes, LED lights and appropriately sized anemometer cups and generators.
The Windmill Project has been installed in Iceland, Burlington, Vermont and Vail, Colorado since then and Marold has used anywhere from 500 to 3000 generators. Marold works with members of the community to decide on a location and volunteers help him install the 8 foot tall generators. Starting at winds of 5 mph, the generators will convert the wind into light, which glows through the tube and casts light down onto the ground. The strength of the wind determines how brightly the light glows. As the wind moves across the landscape it blows across the turbines and lights them up creating a visual representation of where the wind is. Subtle during the daylight, the project comes alive at night and dramatically showcases the wind as a living body of light.
Marold reuses and recycles where possible, but his primary goal in creating these turbines is to make them hardy and durable. They take a beating during travel and installation, so his goal is to minimize breakage and keep the units in working order for as long as possible. The project definitely opens dialogue about the use of clean, renewable energy and Marold welcomes this discussion as a response to his art. With each project, Marold films the entire experience, including installation and glowing in the wind. The pictures show only a glimpse of the project and video helps show a more complete experience.
Marold tells us in an email, “The Windmill Project exposes the fickle personalities of nature and reminds us of our passive reliance on convenient and immediate sources of energy. Though it was not my original intent in Iceland to enter the dialog on clean energy with this sculpture, I appreciate the conversations it does initiate and I value the role that art plays in contemporary issues of energy, stewardship of the land and our roles as communities and individuals. The Windmill Project doesn’t provide any definitive answers, but it does open doors through the experience of watching it, enhancing the connection between the viewer, the land and sky. ”
Images ©Patrick Marold