Public Art + Green Technology: Perspective from an Urban Sustainability Graduate Student

This post comes to you from Green Public Art

Green Public Art’s Intern, Jessica Kimmel is our guest blogger for this post. Below are her thoughts on art and green technology.

As an intern for Green Public Art, I have been in the process of researching new materials for artists to make their works be more environmentally responsible.

Art can act as a function for people’s imagination. It’s difficult to envision what the future could or will look like. As a society, we are currently thrusting our environmental missteps into the limelight everyday and immediate recovery does not seem imminent; but art has the potential to positively inspire people without the discouraging and overwhelming undertones.  All progressive green inspired projects take on an artistic form in one way or another.  Organic light emitting devices, a new emerging technology,  have been an exciting topic for researchers; offering new advances for displays and screen. OLEDs are composed of organic materials [made from a variety of phosphorescent elements including iridium, platinum, and iron] in pressed in layers. With a connection to an electrical source the OLED produces a light energy. See how OLEDs work.

The benefits of OLEDs is a brighter, crisper, display on a more durable and lighter electronic devices that consumes less power so batteries last longer and your energy bill gets lower. It also has a thinner and more flexible quality so it can be more purposeful. OLEDS potentially could be the future of all displays, screens, and much more, however there are difficulties. These devices do not handle water very well and as these are still a new technology, the costs of production are expensive.

There are many different types each with a different purpose: passive-matrix [better for small screens such as cell phones and MP3 players], active-matrix [best for large screen televisions, computer monitors and even billboards], transparent [allows light to pass through both directions even when on], top-emitting [can be reflective or opaque and also used in large displays], foldable [durability and flexibility makes this great in cell phones], and white OLEDs [with better colors and a brighter projection]. There are color options in OLED lighting as well; the color of the light emitted is determined by the components in the different layers.

Here are a few examples of how (OLED) can inspire people in different communities. When this light and display technology is made affordable and efficiently it could potentially replace all other forms of light because of it being brighter and utilizing less materials allowing it to be smaller and eventually cheaper for all forms of light: televisions, billboards, signs, electronic communications, cell phones, computers, appliances, and light bulbs. Because OLEDs can be made in large sheets, they can replace fluorescent lights that are currently used in homes and buildings and their use could potentially reduce energy costs for lighting.

Artists whom are making the strides to be more environmentally friendly could incorporate OLEDs in many different types of work: installations, sculptures, murals, photography, earthworks, video, graphic, and standardized fixtures including street lights, gates, and benches.

An OLED can be integrated as a direct component of a piece and it can also be used in the presentation of the artworks.  These devices can be artistically utilized to illuminate public spaces including parks and walkways, outdoor works of art, and also as the light source in an art piece.  By using solar power to charge and power the OLEDs, the environmental impact is minimal. Because this medium is flexible and be malleable it can be constructed in many forms, leaving many opportunities open to harness this new technology. Below you see some pieces that have encompassed the use of light and/ or digital media as a significant role.

Jason Bruges "Mimosa"

Both, Jason Bruges “Mimosa” and “You Fade to Art” by rAndom International have employed OLEDs for Philips Lumiblade.

Bruges is internationally renowned for his work with green technology. Mimosa, commissioned for Milan in 2010, is an interactive artwork displaying behavior that mimics responsive plant systems.The piece was inspired by the Mimosa family of plants, which change kinetically to suit their environmental conditions. The studio has used the slim form of individual OLEDs to create delicate “light petals”, forming flowers, which open and close in response to visitors.

rAndom International "You Fade to Art"

rAndom International’s projects emphasize the interaction between the audience and the inanimate object. In their work “You Fade to Art” the team designed a large wall of multiple mirrors to interactively follow the viewer’s body movements with light. The work was exhibited at the International Design Museum, Munich in 2010.

The works of Jason Krugman embody the use of light and sometimes video and I think that his work ultimately could use OLEDs, making his illuminated figurative sculptures brighter, malleable, and even interactive with the public.

And, think of Chicago’s Millennium Park where artist Jaume Plensa created a gorgeous glass block tower titled “The Crown Fountain” with flowing water, fountains, and flickering images of a thousand Chicago natives. Now imagine that same project replacing the glass and projection machines with OLEDs and solar energy – not only is the image brighter but it is more crisp and now energy efficient.

Organic Light Emitting Devices used in public art pieces could make art more educational, interactive, and astonishing. They should be considered in the future of artistic expression.

About the blogger: Jessica Kimmel is a master’s degree student in Urban Sustainability at Antioch University Los Angeles. Through her internship at Green Public Art Consultancy and ecoartspace, Jessica’s hope is to encourage environmental discourse in the local community and solidify artists as relevant stakeholders in the green movement.


Rebecca Ansert, founder of Green Public Art, is an art consultant who specializes in artist solicitation, artist selection, and public art project management for both private and public agencies. She is a graduate of the master’s degree program in Public Art Studies at the University of Southern California and has a unique interest in how art can demonstrate green processes or utilize green design theories and techniques in LEED certified buildings.

Green Public Art is a Los Angeles-based consultancy that was founded in 2009 in an effort to advance the conversation of public art’s role in green building. The consultancy specializes in public art project development and management, artist solicitation and selection, creative community involvement and knowledge of LEED building requirements. Green Public Art also works with emerging and mid-career studio artists to demystify the public art process. The consultancy acts as a resource for artists to receive one-on-one consultation before, during, and after applying for a public art project.
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