An Art Project on the Energy Level of Plants
Schöppingen, Münsterland, Germany, since 2017 (unlimited, public art)
In his art projects and works, Franz John deals with nature and with possibilities of its mediatized representation. His works combine results of intensive research and scientific analysis and include them in experience–friendly, often touchable and usable installations in public spaces. Since 2011 – then funded by the German Federal Cultural Foundation – Franz John has produced dye-operated solar cells from plant pigments, aiming to use them as a sustainable energy source and “Resource” for his artistic works.
Franz John – Color as Resource
An art and energy project within the framework of
Kraftwerk Künstlerdorf. Realization: 2013 – 2017
Color as Resource is a permanent site-specific installation by Franz John that utilises the old electrical substation in the city of Schöppingen: blue-luminescent wires extend poetically and metaphorically towards the sky, while red LED lights are scattered on the ground floor inside the building and controlled by local weather data on site. These lights appear to breathe and to have become living entities in the dark space. The old system of electricity has now been replaced by new sustainable technology, so-called Graetzel cells (1), which generates electricity by means of technically photosynthesising organic colors. With his long-term interests in sustainable energy and nature, John learned of the technology to produce customised solar panels that make use, in particular for the Schöppingen project, of the cells of Eckendorfer Langflachs, a typical flax plant that was previously widely cultivated in Münsterland. Historically grown in the geographic conditions of the sandy land and the humidity caused by the moist wind from the Netherlands, it was used to produce high quality linen for the local textile industry. Today, however, corn mono-culture covers the landscape to the introduction of ethanol for automobile. Reflecting on this history, the artist draws viewers’ attention to the effects of technological development that are inscribed in seemingly banal landscapes. Indicating the importance of diversity and the forthcoming possibility of yet another transformation of the region, Color as Resource (2) opens up the imaginary space in Schöppingen between the past, present, and future, rather than labeling it as “anywhere”.
Text by Miya Yoshida
1 Dye-operated solar cells, also known as “Grätzel cells” after their inventor Michael Grätzel. The special feature of this particularly sustainable and environmentally friendly technology is that its photosynthetically functional components can be obtained from plant pigments – in contrast to the silicon-based construction that is prevalent worldwide today.
(2) Refering links to project “Color as Resource”
93 Million Miles Away … , Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin (D), 2011
Color as Resource, Zeppelin Museum Friedrichshafen (D), 2019