Temporary photoElectric Digestopians (Fusing Cooking and Solar Tech with Design)

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Bring me home, please

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Worklab 'Temporary photoElectric Digestopians' [TpED #6] At DMY Design Festival Berlin Berlin [Ger], part of 'MakerLab Finland' (Pixelache), June 2,3; 2011

As i mentioned the other day, the most exciting part of DMY, the International Design Festival Berlin was the MakeLabs, an arena for experimenting with new technologies, materials, communication tools, open-source ideas and for exchanging concepts.

That's where i met Bartaku aka Bart Vandeput from FoAM, a Brussels-based research group and laboratory for speculative culture. Bart was leading the Temporary photoElectric Digestopians (Fusing Cooking and Solar Tech with Design) lab which invited participants to discover the relation between light, food, body and electric energy and then work with edible materials to create 'e-tapas' that were to be ta(e)sted on the heliotropic tongue.

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Preparation of the workshop at DMY

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Preparation of the workshop at DMY

The TpED worklab series is a node of Bart's ongoing research "PhoEf: The Undisclosed Poésis of the Photovoltaic Effect." The project fuses arts, science and technology and looks into the micro and macro realms of Photovoltaics: the conversion of light energy into electrical energy.

Extract from a brief conversation with Bart follows...

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Worklab 'Temporary photoElectric Digestopians' [TpED #6] At DMY Design Festival Berlin, part of 'MakerLab Finland' (Pixelache)

Hi Bart! You recently lead a workshop called "Temporary photoElectric Digestopians (Fusing Cooking and Solar Tech with Design)" at DMY, the International Design Festival in Berlin. You invited participants to experiment with photovoltaics and food and cook 'e-tapas'. Can you explain us how the workshop unfolds? What are you and the participants doing and what is the outcome of the workshop?

The name of these series is TpED Worklabs. I prefer lab since this word expresses -more than workshop- the focus on experimentation, 'guided improvisation', the close link with old and new science, the use of less known materials and the way they are used, like f.i agar agar, an algae based gelatine that is used as a transparent top layer for a TpED.

The TpED Worklabs follow a fixed pattern, starting off with a short auto-presentation of the temporary collaborators, the explanation of the lab content, context and proceedings.
Then, matter, tools and method are introduced after which -in group or individually- recipes are composed, reflecting consideration of taste, aesthetics (form, pattern, color, texture), smell and functionality (photoelectrochemical principles). Then, the experimenting starts, leading towards the creation of a TpED. It is then tested on the tongue, in a heliotropic movement, seeking the point with the highest concentration of light: hence pointing the tongue towards the sun or a classic light bulb. The red and black leads of the multimeter are held -by another temp. collaborator- against the edible silver cathode and anode, checking for electrical energy flow. Pictures are taken, and the taste and test-person is asked what he/she observes, something like 'a tickle on the tongue'.

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CSM Future Textiles_TpED. Detail of connecting one Temporary photoElectric Digestopian to the gold-circuitry of the TpED-panel

In case the lab runs more than a day, more elaborate and complex iterations emerge. F.i. at the TpED Worklab #3 at Textile Futures Deptmnt. of Central Saint Martins College for Art & Design in London, 90 TpED's were laid out on marzipan, interconnected with gold leaf, based on the design of a classic crystalline silicon solar panel.

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Co-creation Worklab_2 "Temporary photoElectric Digestopians" at Burning Ice, Changing Tents, Brussels, Jan. 22, 2011

What does solar technology brings to the cooking and tasting experience?

It makes it possible to express/comment on the connection between light energy, food energy (power plants) and body energy; the relation between kJoules and Watts.

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TpED_2_e-sushi. Produced by participant of PhoEf's WorkLab at the Tactile Research Lab, ArtScience Interfaculty, Royal Academy of Fine Arts, The Hague

The workshop is part of a broader research called "PhoEf: The Undisclosed Poésis of the Photovoltaic Effect." How did you get interested in studying and experimenting with the Photovoltaic Effect?

I used to start a PhoEf-talk by saying that 'two observations presumably lead to PhoEF:
the first one in 2006 in Kinshasa (DRCongo) where people were electrocuted whilst wading home in the flooded city during downpours. In an attempt to have access to electricity people connect wires to the main grid, that are pending on the ground, hence creating electrocution fields during floodings... An image that brings back 'Edison's Topsy' the elephant.

The second one was at a Solar Fair in Germany, where -amongst the sun tanned promo-boys'n girls in big shiny stands, I came accross a Chinese vendor of solar cell water pumps. There I saw how shade can be a controller of aesthetics, patterns, rather then being an enemy (as it is for users of solar sys).'

It is more thoroughly explained here: PDF.

Where does that research extends beyond culinary experiments? Your bio refers to "micro-interventions." Can you explain us what these micro-interventions involve?

Maybe an example is at place here. In 2009/10 I was invited by artist collective Desire Machine Collective to do a residency 'on' the Periferry, on the Brahmaputra river in Guwahati, North-East India. This icon of the petrol society floating on the mighty and powerful Brahmaputra seemed for me the perfect context, offering huge contrast with the micro-energies I am mostly dealing with.

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A Slow Flow, North view

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A Slow Flow. The precise cutting of the bamboo by craftsmen of the "cane and bamboo technology center" in Guwahati

The process emerged into a work that tried to comment on the relation between the city and its energy flows, interweaving past, present and possible futures. Therefore the work - made with the help of Kiran Ganghadaran- consisted of a perfect mathematical bamboo spiral -designed to host power plants (suitable for solar cells) and to filter water, sun/shade controlled audio, a short video showing of a heliotropic ear cleaning session- and copper pots that bring the purified water back to the Brahmaputra. The spiral is mounted on top of the captain's hut, the tiniest available surface but also the most visible one, that is moving according to the dry and wet season towards (above) and away from the river boulevard...
Some photos.

Thanks Bart!

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PhoEf's T(emporary)p(hoto)E(lectric)D(igestopian)-WorkLab at the Tactile Research Lab, ArtScience Interfaculty, Royal Academy of Fine Arts, The Hague

All images courtesy of Bartaku.

Previously: DMY - International Design Festival Berlin.

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