The point of departure for this project was to engage the nascent cultural paradigm shift from thinking about energy as something which comes magically from distant sources to something which can be generated locally in a variety of ways. The goal was not, however, to simply express material processes or feats of engineering, but rather to create a sense of delight and exotic beauty around energy technologies through excess.
The project, a commissioned piece of public art in Los Angeles, is an aquarium-like photobioreactor inserted into the facade of a renovated building, containing green algae colonies that produce biofuel through photosynthesis. The aquarium is made of thick transparent polycarbonate, molded to create intricate relief with haptic effects for passers-by. This relief tracks along with and supports an internal lighting armature which is based on the „Bio-feedback Algae Controller“ invented by the biofuel company OriginOil. This new type of bioreactor uses tuned LED lights which vary in color and intensity to support algae growth at different stages of development, maximizing output. According to OriginOil, “this is a true bio-feedback system… the algae lets the LED controller know what it needs as it needs it, creating a self-adjusting growth system.” This system is powered by a sinuous solar array that winds up into the branches of an adjacent tree.
At night, the piece generates a simultaneously urban and jungle affect: glittery reflections on plastic combine with an eerie élan vital of glowing organic material.