Reposted from www.sustainablepractice.org
Exhibition until 29 May 2011 in London
In 1979 former American President Jimmy Carter inaugurated a solar installation on the roof of the West Wing of the White House. This symbol of his pioneering energy policy was removed seven years later by the Ronald Regan administration. Through video, sculptural-recreation, text and archive material the artists Christina Hemauer and Roman Keller explore two short-lived experiments with solar energy, both marking points of change or crisis in the history of oil consumption.
Sun of 1913 (2009) looks back to the first commercial-scale solar power plant, built in 1913, in Egypt under British mandate, by American engineer Frank Shuman. For a short period solar was the most economical form of power generation, cheaper than shipping coal from Britain. However, the plant ceased operation after one year, when at the onset of World War 1 the British Government began mass-scale crude oil production in Iran, precipitating a widespread turn to oil. The fate of Shuman’s solar plant is told through a narrative written with Egyptian writer Wageh George. A video projection shows two segments of the plant being reconstructed in Cairo by the artists and craftsmen.
A Curiosity, a Museum Piece and an Example of a Road not Taken (2006-2007) investigates former American president Jimmy Carter’s pioneering but ultimately futile energy programme. It culminated in his symbolic solar installation on the White House roof during the 1979 energy crisis, which was removed by the Ronald Regan administration. At Cubitt, Hemauer and Keller focus on the solar installation at the point of greatest potential: its design, construction and ceremonial launch.
Using re-creation and re-enactment to revitalise the optimism of pioneering projects, Hemauer and Keller highlight the time that has since lapsed; that these were “roads not taken”. They revisit episodes in the history of oil and solar energy to ask questions about the present energy situation: increased dependence on, and continued conflict over, fossil fuels. Since 2003 the focus of their research-based practice has been the concept of energy as a defining force of modern society, including works and performances that herald the post-petroleum age and map the relationship between the history of energy and modern art.
Christina Hemauer (born 1973 Zurich, Switzerland) and Roman Keller (born 1969 Liestal, Switzerland) live in Zurich, Switzerland. Recent exhibitions include United Alternative Energies, Centre for Contemporary Art, Aarhus, Denmark, curated by Latitudes (2011) and the 11th Cairo International Biennale, Cairo (2009).
Venue: CUBITT Gallery and Studios, 8 Angel Mews, London N1 9HH.
For more information visit: cubittartists.org.uk.