Water Gas Car

Water Gas Car

, Nick Laessing, 2016, video still

This research project is an artistic investigation into the element hydrogen and its agency in the context of ecological art.

This research project is an artistic investigation into the element hydrogen and its agency in the context of ecological art2. In light of the recently proposed Anthropocene epoch, I will produce a series of installation works to test the potentials of hydrogen as a locally produced sustainable energy source for artistic agency. Concurrently, my aim is to question how interdisciplinary artistic practice can navigate overlaps with scientific and technological fields and in doing so find new methodologies for artistic practice in an age of ecological and climatic emergency.3

The studio practice will produce a series of art works, that utilise the electrochemical process of water-electrolysis to create hydrogen (working title: local energy utopias). This will be achieved working with the scientific input of experts in this field at the Electrochemical Innovation Lab at UCL. These installations will test scenarios of technical functionality within an artistic framework and explore the boundaries of art and science. One example of a planned art installation is Hydrogen kitchen and oxygen bar. Hydrogen will be produced from water electrolysis, powered by solar panels. It will then be collected and burned as a fuel for cooking. The oxygen, a waste gas from water electrolysis will be collected and used for an oxygen bar. I aim to build up a body of work which will question the politics and structures of energy dependence and our reliance on fossil fuels.

The theoretical enquiry consists of two related components. The first concerns the impact of Anthropocene discourses on ecological art. The now widely accepted view of the Anthropocene era as a geological event caused by the legacy of human impact on the environment, necessitates a shift in discourse about our relationship with our environment. The research project will affiliate itself with and contribute to this emerging field by examining the combined role of art and technology in the Anthropocene. The second research component concerns the nature of interdisciplinary research, aiming to contextualise and discuss methodologies to navigate the territory between art and science, focusing on the paradoxical relationship of art objects and their usefulness or functionality, thus aiming to contribute to knowledge and understanding in this area.

[1] The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists informs the public about threats to the survival and development of humanity from nuclear weapons, climate change, and emerging technologies. The Doomsday Clock was first displayed on its cover in 1947.

[2] Ecological art, also known as environmental art, encompasses a wide area of artistic activity in the natural and urban. environment, including, but not exclusive to site specific sculpture, land art and environmental activism involving social and political issues.

[3]  For up to date reports on climate emergency see Wadhams, Peter. A Farewell to Ice: A Report from the Arctic. S.l.: Allen Lane, 2016. Print.

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Primary supervisor: Simon Faithfull

Secondary supervisors: Dan Brett (Dept of Chemical Engineering), Hayley Newman, Chiara Ambrosio (Dept of Science & Technology)