Art & Renewable Energy



The 4-day symposium took place in summer 2009 in Aizpute, gathering together artists, activists, technologists, scientists and researchers, who shared their ideas and explorations that deal with renewable energy resources, alternative ecological use of technologies, and other sustainability related issues. In a result of the symposium Renewable Network was launched.


[bio / eco] Environmental science and ecology – Ecosystem research – Permaculture and biosystem design – Biomass as renewable energy resource – Critical and alternative approaches to biotechnology
[solar energy] Sunlight as constant energy resource – Process of photosynthesis – Solar energy technologies
[open source] Sustainability using open source/information approaches: in art and grassroots culture, ecology, architecture and environmental design
[myths & legends] Historical traditions and modern alternative solutions – Cultural transformations: energy in nature and in city – Future visions of terrestrial energy


The symposium took place in artists residency center SERDE in Aizpute, a small town in Kurzeme region of Latvia. SERDE is located in old wooden historical building that also was used as a specific case for which alternative and ecological approach in developing sustainable systems and renewable energy technologies were explored and applied.


  • Andrew Paterson (SCO/FI), Ulla Taipale (FI/ES), Terike Haapoja (FI), Gisle Froysland (NO), Rikke Luther (DK), Julian Priest (DK), Victor Hugo Mondragon Franco (SE), Erik Sjödin (SE), Michel Bussien (SE), Malin Lindmark Vrijman (SE), Mathieu Vrijman (SE), Tiina Sööt (EE), Bart Vandeput (BE), Christina Stadlbauer (BE), Jānis Garančs (LV), Miķelis Putrāms (LV), Linda Krūmiņa (LV), Ainārs Kamoliņš (LV), Reinis Rutkis (LV), Jānis Liepiņš (LV), Sanita Zīke (LV), Mārtiņš Ratniks (LV), Dace Džeriņa (LV), Rasa Šmite (LV), Raitis Šmits (LV), Linda Vēbere (LV), Daina Siliņa (LV), Signe Pucena (LV), Uģis Pucens (LV)



DAY 1 Thursday, August 13

Participants arrive in Riga // 14.00 Bus to Aizpute (from Riga) // 16.00/17.00 Arriving in Aizpute // Lunch 16: 30 // 17.00 – 20.00 Introduction Meeting // 21.00 Opening programme

DAY 2 Friday, August 14

8.30 – 9.30 Breakfast // 09.30 – 10.00 Planning Meeting

10.00 – 11.30 [bio : eco]

Andrew Gryf Paterson. PLATFORM ECOSYSTEMS AND PEDAGOGY  (20-30 min)
Erik Sjödin and Michel Bussien. BEYOND NATURE (20-30 min)
Ulla Taipale. CapsulaZs CURATED EXPEDITIONS (20-30 min)

“Growing Chair” by Michel Bussien

Presentation by Ulla Taipale, “Capsula’s Curated Expeditions”

11.30 -12.00 coffee break

12.00-13.00 [bio : energy]
Julian Priest. WHOIS ENERGY? (20-30 min)
Reinis Rutkis. HYDROGEN AS ENERGY CARRIER – native and fuel cell systems. (20 min)

13.00 – 14.30 [bio : ethics]
Ainārs Kamoliņš and Jānis Liepiņš. BIOETHICS AND/IN ART. (20 min)
Terike Haapoje. PROJECT “CLOSED CIRCUIT – OPEN DURATION” and on use of scientific research tehnologies in art, and the impact of environmental ethics on art. (60 min)

Terike Haapoja and her self-portrait

14.30 – 15.30 Lunch break

15.30 – 19.00
Workshop [bio : solar]: HOW TO MAKE DYE SENSITIZED SOLAR CELLS. Conducted by Bartaku
Workshop [bio : myth]: BEE ARCHITECTS – ON THE GEOMETRY OF BEE HIVES. Conducted by Christina Stadlbauer.
+ Field work / Work on collaborative projects / Individual work / …

Workshop by Christina Stadlbauer, designing bee hives

Picking up black currant for Bartaku sollar cell workshop

Bartaku explaining principles of photovoltaic
This black currant solar cell was generating 0,36 volts

19.00 Dinner

21.00 Screenings and presentations:
Rasa Smite, Raitis Smits, Linda Vebere/RIXC. Presentation of RIXC’s projects: exhibitions WAVES (2006) and SPECTROPIA (2008), research projects SPECTRAL ECOLOGY and video SKRUNDA SIGNAL (2007).
Open session / Films.

DAY 3 Saturday, August 15

9.00 – 10.00 Breakfast // 10.00 Planning Meeting / Discussions// 10.00 – 10.30 Coffee break

10.30 – 11.30 [open source]
Gisle Frøysland. INTO THE FREE AND OPEN: the piksel festival and related initiatives to provide sustainable resources for artists based on floss technologies. (30 min)
Malin Lindmark Vrijman and Mathieu Vrijman. Sustainability using open source approaches on ECO TOURISM AND LOCAL COMMUNITY AWARENESS. (30 min)

Presentation by Malin Lindmark Vrijman and Mathieu Vrijman, in background picture of Dinner with Cows

11.30 – 12.10 [eco : systems]
Mikelis Putrams. NEW OPORTUNITIES CREATED BY WOOD INNOVATION: how new materials shape timber construction; dendrolight. (20 min)

Miķelis Putrāms presenting new building materials

12.10 – 12.30 Coffee Break

12.30 – 14.00 [myth & legends]
Christina Stadlbauer. THE BLACK BEE WENT TO TOWN or how the ever waste land came to have 50.000 new inhabitants (30 min)
Victor Hugo Mondragon. ZEGACHE PROJECT IN MEXICO. Open Media relations, interpretation and subjectivity within the popular culture and the Media Art. (20 min)

Jānis Garančs repairing the network after thunder storm

14.00-15.00 Lunch Break

15.00 – 19.00
Workshop [solar]: How to build solarbots miniature kinetic sculptures driven by light. Conducted by Gisle Frøysland.

Workshop [myth]: Natural farming: local traditions of making ‘moonshine’. Conducted by Signe Pucena and Ugis Pucens.

Making solar bots

19.00 Dinner

21.00 Closing event / Screenings / Presentations

Julian and Uģis setting up wi-fi connection

DAY 4 Sunday, August 16

9.30 – 10.30 Breakfast // 10.30 – 12.00 Closing Meeting (final discussions, evaluation, future planning) // 12.00 Coffee // 12.00/13.00/14.00 Departure. Bus leaves for Riga.

Signe controlling the process of making moonshine



* New opportunities created by wood innovation: how new materials shape timber construction; Dendrolight. Miķelis Putrāms

First wooden houses were constructed from tree trunks, placed horizontally or vertically. During times clever timber production technologies are created, therefore wood could be used for buildings in many ways. Task always is to use wood for its qualities, while struggling with its weaknesses. Starting from log homes, timber frame buildings, glulam timber products and dendrolight, that transforms wood to the next level timber



Hydrogen as energy carrier – native and fuel cell systems. Reinis Rutkis

In spite of the fact, that main oxidative reaction in mitochondrial and some bacterial respiratory chains in general are the same as in man-made proton exchange membrane fuel cell systems, there still are principal differences in proton transport, energy transfer and accumulation in these systems. Therefore, in this lecture it is attempted to compare native and fuel cell systems to show similarities and differences between living and man-made structures.


* Bioethics and/in art. Ainārs Kamoliņš and Jānis Liepiņš

In our presentation we will speak about possibilities how certain practices in art – an application of tools used in biology – can change our notions of bioethics. Normally we have utilitarian approach to science as opposite to art which is in a sense parasitic to scientific knowledge. Bio art – which largely subsists on scientific practice –is guided by the same ethical principles as science and can be politically influenced at the same extent as other innovative processes in biology. Therefore it is legitimate to suppose that specific kind of art practices can contribute to ethical discussions held in field of science. Is this really so or the option is being second-rated righteously? First approach – that there are no interesting contributions stemming from the art field – could be based on reasoning that bio art is derivative or even parasitic scientific practice.  In that regard we can ask: whether art (bio art) and creative use of bio technologies can contribute to life sciences at all? Should we condemn engagement with living being for purely aesthetic reasons as it is seen in the light of for instance discussions based on notion of ‘intrinsic values’? Also we can always ask: is there any substantial difference between Orlan and average surgical operations? Green glowing bunny and everyday experiments on animals in laboratories? Video art and documentaries? There are many examples when substantial difference is based only on artistic manifestations and in these cases discussions can be only nominal and therefore bio art as such can not provide us with interesting discussions in bioethics. In the more optimistic scenario we can adopt second approach i.e., that art actually can provide interesting and original discussions on bioethics, in spite of doubts that many artists who used bio technologies in creating art works had in fact made any original contribution. Bio art can be seen as an ideal tool for demonstrating that we need to shift our attention from established bioethics – which is based on jurisprudence – to more phenomenological approach. i.e. the questions of presence, aesthetical experience (or as in case of instable art – so called ‘temporal aesthetic zones’), our relationships with the Other and so on, as phenomenological discussions on artifacts can provide proper basis for case-sensitive interpretations in order to show intrinsic problems of bioethics.


* Bee architects – on the geometry of bee hives. Workshop by Christina Stadlbauer

Workshop approx 2 hours. An introduction to the construction of combs of wax and an invitation to brainstorm on an ingenious solution of hive geometry to fit best both the bees and the beekeeper.



* How to make DYE sensitizedsolar cells. Workshop by Bartaku

Workshop of 2-3 hrs about basic principles of photovoltaic and a hands-on session _making dc low power solar cells using natural dyes_ (berries, currants, leafs/thea…)


* Understanding of ecology in humanities. Tiina Sööt

Talk about understanding of ecology in humanities and arts in comparison with the meanings in natural sciences. A review of different uses of the term ecology from ‘scientific study of ecosystems’ to ‘somehow related to nature’.


* Sustainability using Open source approaches on eco tourism and local community awareness. Malin Lindmark Vrijman and Mathieu Vrijman

Sustainability using Open source approaches on eco tourism and local community awareness.
Linking The right of public access to nature (part of the Swedish constitution, giving rights to anyone to roam the wild) with the rights and possibilities of public access to information and history. We present our recent Project ”Fagelvagen”, that links contemporary open source structures for information sharing to an ancient common walking path. From the village common land, next to Kultivators ground, leads a path through the forest to an ancient ruin fortress, dated to somewhere around 200 b.c. The path has historically been used for bringing cattle out to graze in the forest, and for people from now abandoned villages in the forest to go to school, church or the market. Much of the flora and fauna along the path is rare and unique for Swedish nature, due to the long history of use by man and grazing animals. The fortress ruin the path leads to, has never been fully excavated and no all over accepted explanation over its function exists, leaving plenty of room for popular beliefs and tales over. Information and knowledge about the flora and fauna, historical facts and speculations are highly interesting and plentiful, but hard to get hold on for a visitor, or the younger generation living here. The project intended to set a structure, both analogue and digital, for sharing this information, and build on an open source guide for this specific route, that will be owned by everybody and nobody, mimicking the common use of as well the forest as of the path with communal respect and cooperation. In our presentation we will give a short resume over this work, and show examples of the strategies we have used to engage different categories of people to contribute.



* Beyond Nature. Erik Sjödin and Michel Bussien

In their most recent project, Beyond Nature, Erik Sjödin and Michel Bussien attempt to zoom out and capture a distant perspective on nature and technology. During their talk at the “Art and Renewable Technologies Symposium” they will present a series of images that relate to thoughts, ideas and questions that have surfaced during their earlier collaborations and hopefully will serve as a starting point for further critical and visionary discussion around the role of nature and technology in contemporary and future societies. Michel Bussien and Erik Sjödin have previously collaborated on “Suitcase Science” and “Bactopia” – two projects that challenges traditional views of nature and suggests that new relationships to nature can be formed.



* Talk “whois energy?”. Performance “i speak; i lie”. Julian Priest

Information is often thought of as separate from the physical, but it is encoded on a physical bearer. Taking as a starting point the thought that electromagnetic radiation is both a form of energy transmission and a medium of information transmission, aspects of the relationship between
energy and information are developed.
‘whois energy?’ poses the question ‘what kind of energy technology would we like to live with?’
As the development of new energy technologies intensifies, the ‘whois energy?’ discussion workshop will attempt to describe energy technologies that don’t yet exist.
All technologies have social and political implications and as they become adopted, they push back into the world to reshape the social, political and physical environments around them.
Rather than focus on specific technologies or potential physical sources of energy, ‘whois energy?’ sets out to describe social, political and cultural characteristics that might be desirable in a new energy technology in advance of it’s development.
Such a description can be a tool to evaluate new and existing energy technologies as they emerge, frame future research or point to unexpected areas of potential development.


* Learning Site. What shall we do with all that Water. Rikke Luther

What are the rights to the water? Can we develop new ideas in relation to the definition “ownership” of water spaces in the city? Is it useful to think of water spaces and access to the water in terms of a ‘commons’? Could we talk about new order of property? Put another way, can we rethink the city through looking at the city in relation to nature and what is produced in the city? This entails other questions: What kind of ecological footprint is the city creating?
To many, the concept of the ‘commons’ is not an evident solution. But in our situation today, it is a concept we need to think more about. It is time to make new experiments. So, can we rethink the ownership, participation and access, and our possibilities to be in the city and help the environment?
The talk will start out from an analysis of the situtation in Copenhagen, where Learning Sites activities are located, and will explore the history and current norms of the relation to water spaces.


* Agents, Images, Machines. Terike Haapoja

In her talk Terike Haapoja will discuss the connections between nature scientific thought and the way new technology is applied to art projects. By referring to the exhibiton project Closed Circuit – open duration she will examine the similarities and differences between scientific and artistic ideas of representation. The focus is on different ways of understanding the connections with human and non-human world in different traditions. The talk aims at bringing up questions on the topic for further discussion during the symposium.


* Capsula’s Curated Expeditions. Ulla Taipale

Capsula’s cross-disciplinary expeditions, straddling the borderline between art and science, study and marvel at natural phenomena through personal experience. The first expedition was made in summer 2008 to Siberia, where the total eclipse of the Sun could be observed. The base of the expedition was set up at the Novosibirsk Zoo, from which it continued on to the Altai wilderness and all the way to the Moon. Traveling slowly, using methods of transport that only moderately burden the environment, is a key aspect of the expeditions.
Natural phenomenon takes the leading role in order to promote positive emotions that can be experienced in natural and artificial environments, and the principal questions are: Can natural phenomena and the beauty of nature still fascinate a major quantity of people in the modern world, saturated by entertainment such as video games and action movies? Can these splendid and thrilling emotions lived within the nature, shift the attitude of people to be more respectful and caring of their environment?
Through the artworks, exhibitions, public debates and writings resulting, the recognition of the miracles of nature, and a consciousness of its extraordinariness and vulnerability, is hoped.



* Platform ecosystems and pedagogy. Andrew Gryf Paterson

This presentation will speak of experience learning about natural eco-system theory, and applying it as an investigative analysis and design tool for social and information spaces.
In January 2009, I spent a 2 week SCANZ residency (Solar Circuit Aoteroa New Zealand) at New Plymouth, making connections between a public park, the people involved in developing educational projects connected to it, and its online information representations (wiki, geo-data, kete websites). I noted the inward, internal and outgoing materials, organisms and data in the different systems involved.
Beyond that experience, I am currently working towards creating pedagogical methods to interpret ecologies and systems in project/ process design and management. One way to do this is to take and expanded understanding of the term ‘environmental awareness’, to include social, cultural, urban, natural and media/technological and informatic influences. Hence, ‘platform ecosystems’ maybe considered to be projects imagined by initiators to be sustainable, outgoing and ongoing developments, or to have a specific lifespan, inter- and co-dependent with other developments.
I will share a proposed schedule of studies for feedback, which aims to implement such ideas, as part of an experimental cross-disciplinary course within the new Aalto University.


FOLLOW-UP / Festival:

The outcomes of the symposium – new projects, artworks, co-productions – were presented during the international art and science conference ENERGY that took place in the framework of Art+Communication festival in Riga, October 8-10, 2009. (


Symposium was initiated and organised by RIXC, The center for new media culture with the support of Nordic Culture Fund, and Nordic Culture Point.

NordicCultureFund NordicCulturePoint