An object asking us to recognise and revel in energy's presence
To draw attention to the need to nurture a different relationship with the energy system, we brought the solar panel into the living room borrowing from the form of a houseplant.
The energy grid has powered societies for decades. The degree of integration is so deep that a day without energy would leave no parts of many peoples’ lives untouched by change. Always present and ever-flowing, energy has become one of the lifebloods of modern life.
Though the importance of energy is undisputed, its underlying system is understood by few and often hidden away in our everyday lives. We live in a world touched by climate change caused in part by the burning of fossil fuels, yet do not know where our energy comes from all this while expecting its infinite supply.
This project is about rejecting anonymity as the defining feature of our relationship with the energy system by choosing to be intimate with the infrastructures that power our lives. Choosing intimacy means living in an embrace of the rhythms of energy, caressing its material form, and basking in that which gives life to us all.
We call this photovolphilia – the innate desire to derive energy from the sun.
To capture the spirit of photovolphilia and communicate what material intimacy with energy infrastructures could be like we designed an object which brings the solar panel from the field and the roof into our living room.
Borrowing from the form of a houseplant, the solar panelled object asks to recognise its presence. It probes whether it should perhaps expect the same kind of care and intimacy that is bestowed on other objects in the domestic sphere.
The object is found in a living room, placed in front of a window, gleaning in the energy. It appears like a cross between a succulent and one of those spikey rubber toy balls. The object’s leaves are thick and springy, held up by steel sticks and blanketed in photovoltaic panels, giving them an almost alien glow when they manage to catch the sun’s rays.
This object is not meant to produce all of the energy needed in a modern domestic space. Its capacity is limited and does not stand up to the established expectations of instant, convenient access to energy. Rather it prospers in an world of fluctuation and finiteness. A world where energy is local, variable, and based on interactions with the sun, the wind, and the sky.
The project is one of the outcomes of Close To Home, our ongoing research project about energy’s anonymity.