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Artist's Statement
Written by Thomas Lindsey

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solarworks model


There is no more pressing issue regarding planet Earth than global warming. Every day we hear more reports about the dire consequences we face as a global community if we fail to recognize the causes, and fail to fully focus our creative intellect to bring about effective solutions. Many in the scientific community believe we have very little time left to effect the welling momentum for warming that has been building over the past century. Many believe we have already passed the tipping point and have entered into the process of Earth's degradation even, as we ponder the complex ramifications as average temperatures continue their gradual rise.

My interest as an artist is to figure out how to incorporate this subject into my work, and how to integrate my concern with the physical and spiritual health of both the planet and humanity as a whole. We, after all, are a product of Earth processes, or more specifically, a product of the relationship between the Earth and the Sun. Tracing back to the origins of life, we have emerged only very recently as a conscious species able to communicate, create and imagine. We are, in very real terms, the Earth's consciousness because we are undeniably inseparable. I therefore propose that we have a story to define us, our emergent relationship, that can and must be incorporated into our cultural fabric. If we don't soon come to terms with our shared heritage, life as we know and imagine it to be will undergo dramatic and drastic shifts.



solarworks proposalI have been developing a series of ideas for site-specific installations entitled SOLARWORKS: Proposals for Solar Meditation Gardens. The formative ideas for these works were initially inspired by sculptor Dale Eldred and his focus on the poetic dynamic he envisioned within the rhythms of nature, the interplay of sunlight with the movement of the planet. I was so impressed with an installation Dale did at the Nelson Atkins Art Gallery in Kansas City in 1979 entitled Sun Structures + Time Incident. The power and perception of this celebration of light and process was truly inspiring. Through a series of mirrored light transmissions and reflections Eldred was able to direct sunlight from a mile away into the gallery onto a large raised dais in the center of the gallery floor. The surface of the dais was covered with a material called prismatic diffraction grating. When struck by full spectrum light from the Sun, this grating glows prismatic(as it's name implies) in riotous hues of primary rainbow colors that are quite animated, slowly moving and undulating across the surface. The viewer, standing in the darkened gallery with the dais radiating these beautiful colors, becomes aware that her or she is actually witnessing is the result of the Earth revolving on it's axis as the colors dance and undulate. Imagine incorporating the entire Earth and it's relationship to the Sun into a sculptural installation; giving the viewer the opportunity to be made aware of this intimate relationship that has fostered life eventuating in the consciousness that perceives it. In my mind Eldred was one of the 20th century's most visionary artists.

SOLARWORKS utilizes arrays of photovoltaic solar cells to transform photons (little packets of energy) from the Sun into an electromotive force to activate both a kinetic element within the installation (cone, wheel, drum) as well as a soundwork, presenting the viewer/listener with evidence of the bio-spiritual relationship between the Earth and Sun. The premise here is that Sun and Earth are 'bonded' and that life has arisen on this particular place in the Universe because of 'emergent principals'. These principals are organized in such a way as to provide a vastly complicated set of conditions for the evolution of primordial organisms that eventually results in a self-aware consciousness; that, after 3.4 billion years one species becomes aware and begins to contemplate it's origins. (The Sun, of course, makes life possible and, in a very real sense, we are all made out of sunlight; all the plants we eat (photosynthesis), the animals we eat that eat plants; the stored solar energy released when we burn wood which is then released as heat energy, petroleum products which is ancient biomass that is stored energy from the sun from 400 million years ago and now a limited and quickly diminishing resource). In short, the SOLARWORKS ideas are about the dynamic processes that have given rise to human consciousness.

"Einstein used to say that the most incomprehensible thing about the Universe is that it is comprehensible. It is an old riddle: What is it about the human mind that so resonates with the rest of the Universe that we are able to understand anything about nature on the largest scale? It is a philosophical question, I suppose, but science has been able to provide us with a little bit of the answer. When we look at subatomic particles and we look at stars and galaxies we see evidence from every direction that the Universe is all of a piece and that it began as a single seed smaller than an atom and in a very real sense you and I were there. Every scrap of matter in our blood and in the synapses of our thoughts traces its lineage back to the origin of the Universe. The natural laws that fragmented and mutated as the young Universe expanded and cooled continue to operate today in the beating of our hearts as well as in the trajectories of the stars. As the Koran puts it, 'The Universe is as close as the veins in our necks.'

Dr. Timothy Ferris, The Creation of the Universe

Chaos theorists propose that the Universe is emergent process. That is to say that there are specific organizing principles at work that ultimately lay down the matrix for life to arise on the planet. "Emergence is 'something special' arising from the system, such as the phenomenon of life emerging at the level of the primal cell, as language emerging at the level of the human being, and the capacity to build space ships emerging at the level of the large science-technology task group." (Stan Rowe) Within the very core of that 'single seed' some 13.4 billion years ago and at that very instance of creation there is the 'potential' for life eventuating in consciousness and emergent awareness. If the mind can wrap itself around the idea, it is a fact that every atom in our body compresses back to that zero point. Then the Universe inflates and expands, and stars and galaxies come to form. As Carl Sagan was fond of saying, "We are stardust". We are intimately related to the 100 billion visible stars (+/-) of our galaxy and the 200 billion (+) visible galaxies in the Universe, possibly less than 10% of all matter by some estimates.

What I would like to express/communicate through this body of work is the idea that humanity must come to the realization that we are inseparable from the very Earth/Universe that gave us birth. We have arrived at a point in cultural history where humanity has become an extinction event as profound as any asteroid or comet smacking into the planet. Our actions through ignorance and environmental disregard are endangering the wellbeing of the entire ecosphere in which life has arisen (Jame's Lovelock's Gaia theory). Richard Leaky, Thomas Berry and many others now propose the 'sixth extinction' or Bill McKibben 'The End of Nature', Al Gore, 'An Inconvenient Truth' and most recently dire forecasts found in Lovelock's 'The Revenge of Gaia' . Our creativity is the ultimate expression of humankind's conscious awareness and our deepest connection to the emergent processes of the Earth and Universe.

The ultimate SOLARWORKS installation would constitute a meditation garden or a kind of contemporary solarworks proposalsacred space/shrine where the viewer could come to contemplate/honor/celebrate the experience of his or her particular sense of relationship of immanence. The slowly rotating wheel/cone/drum draws on the symbolic metaphor of the Buddhist prayer (mani) wheel so that, in motion, the kinetic rotation becomes the focal point or mantra whose activity draws the attention of the participant/viewer and relates to the foundational connection to the greater whole. The unfolding prayer of this kinetic element is for gratitude, compassionate awareness, and for a creative ecocentric ethic that provides a new and emerging bases for valuing the natural Earth, it's systems, processes and unfoldings,along with the recognition of the ecosphere as a vital and life sustaining system. The rotational momentum could also be seen as the rhythm of nature, emergent processes, unfolding of time and space, fecundity, cycles, periods, vibrations, waves, pulses, oscillations, orbits, fluctuations, all reflecting the dynamic interaction within the system of self-organizing complexity. My use of the prayer wheel metaphor here is not necessarily intended to represent Buddhist symbolism but rather the universal complexity of emergent interplay of the countless cycles and rhythms found in nature, this ongoing and deep mysteriously woven warp and weft, the flowing processes so interdependent and so ultimately sacred from which our consciousness emerged.

One might also consider the act of prayer/meditation in light of the dilemma of the current challenges to our Earth system. This vast and complex web of life is extremely periled. The questions being: Do we have anything but a prayer to rectify the damage done? Are we capable of bringing our creative focus to bear on the immense solutions that will be required and necessary to slow the destructive momentum we have created?


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Image Credits: All images courtesy of Thomas Lindsey.

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