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ENESS's public installation is 'A Solar-Powered Bench That Spins Ever So Slowly'
A Solar-Powered Bench That Spins Ever So Slowly is a sustainable public installation by ENESS
Image: Courtesy of ENESS

ENESS's public installation is 'A Solar-Powered Bench That Spins Ever So Slowly'

Melbourne-based studio ENESS utilises clean energy from inbuilt solar panels, creating an interactive public installation that makes a gently moving statement on sustainability.

by STIRpad
Published on : Jul 11, 2023

Harvested from our sun, the uber-sustainable and powerful resource of solar energy has numerous benefits, for both individuals and communities alike. Leaps made in contemporary innovations and technologies have made it possible for solar-powered systems to enjoy longer lives, with minimal maintenance requirements. This makes it a reliable, affordable, and long-term alternative source of energy, in comparison to the fossil fuels we burn at present. Advancements in solar technology as well as its heightened affordability now assay the potential to fundamentally transform the energy systems currently employed in the world at large, assuring sustainable power for future generations.

The use of solar energy within public spaces has evolved into a revolutionary strategy encouraging and defining environmentally responsible and sustainable urban practices. Often used in public installations, this green technology lowers dependency on conventional energy sources, cuts carbon emissions significantly, and encourages the consumption of renewable energy sources at a larger, more impactful scale.

An initiative to utilise solar energy for public installations was realised by Melbourne-based art and technology studio, ENESS. Launched during Melbourne Design Week 2023 (May 18 - 28, 2023), at the National Gallery of Victoria in Australia, the installation named A Solar-Powered Bench That Spins Ever So Slowly features built-in solar panels that generate energy for the benches to rotate slowly. With this interactive endeavour, ENESS aims to raise awareness about renewable energy resources, by generating clean electricity, a creative method instilling a sense of responsibility, and inspiring communities to actively work towards transitioning towards a greener future.

A Solar-Powered Bench That Spins Ever So Slowly is an experiential installation that can be enjoyed by all age groups. In tandem with storing sunlight harnessed from their customised solar panels, these benches slowly rotate, offering users and onlookers a fresh perspective on their urban surroundings, transforming their perceptions of public spaces. The body of the solar-powered bench is manufactured with rotomolded Low-Density Polyethylene (LDPE), rendering it a feature of holistic sustainability. As the seat gradually spins in the sunlight, it provides an opportunity to take in the surrounding views, conversing and reconnecting with nature. The interactive installation adapts to the sun, spinning quicker on sunny days and less rapidly on cloudy ones. “A Solar Powered Bench That Spins Ever So Slowly offers a unique interactive experience in a public space, enabling gentle interactions between friends, family, and strangers," shares Nimrod Weis, an artist and founder of ENESS.

" (We) create interactive artworks that forge greater community connections in the public realm through joy and happiness. In this way, the studio collective considers themselves to be 'happiness architects.' At the heart of all ENESS work is joyful, cross-generational connection. (We) strive to change public space by introducing unexpected and surprising work that forges deeper moments between friends, family, and community; even enabling strangers to meet and find common ground," the creators elaborate.

Taking inspiration from a 60s flower graphic motif, the benches' forms resemble pots of flowers spinning and oscillating contentedly in the sun. "In addition, 60s furniture aesthetics are referenced, (a time when new synthetics were revolutionising manufacturing techniques). This retro look and feel are combined with contemporary sustainability values – harvesting sunlight through embedded solar panels," ENNES relays. The goal was to produce an object that advances design innovation within the public realm through novel, practical, and sustainable themes of interaction. The benches move without assistance owing to their stored solar energy, making a moving statement on the sustained usage of green energy sources for light, movement, and animation, as well as envisioning a cleaner future for public infrastructure.

"Sweet moments are experienced by smaller people as feet hang off the ground in a childlike way, while taller users need to playfully ‘re-plant’ their feet every couple of metres as the bench slowly spins," shares the studio founded in 1997, which now comprises a multidisciplinary team of creatives including artists, musicians, software engineers, and industrial designers. "Forerunners of new media art, ENESS has frequently broken new ground by reinterpreting existing mediums and fusing them with technology to create never-before-seen executions," they add.

ENESS sets an example in approaching public installations underscored heavily by a sustainable design perspective, effectively merging gentle entertainment with ecological considerations for the benefit of all. The installation, while successful in its intent, also enquires whether it is possible to effectively employ solar energy produced by the benches outside of their domains and assigned activities—Similar methods can be ideated to serve other functions such as powering small-scale public facilities and houses located in close proximity, or perhaps, outdoor charging stations for small devices like mobile phones or even light gym equipment. It does leave one questioning, whether raising awareness is enough, in the current climate of overconsumption and overproduction. What else can be put into palpable practice, to truly cement its impact and message?

Text by Ria Jha

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