The story appears on

Page A11

March 16, 2019

GET this page in PDF

Free for subscribers

View shopping cart

Related News

Home » Feature » Art and Culture

Art + technology: new visions of Earth’s future

AS a designer who combines art and technology in urban areas, Daan Roosegaarde says he believes art can be a powerful medium in saving Earth from environment ruin.

In the past few years, the Dutchman’s projects have included smog-free towers and air-cleaning bicycles. Now he is broadening his scope into space.

At this month’s Design Shanghai 2019, the 39-year-old Roosegaarde shared with audiences his newest project, the Space Waste Lab. It will use installations to focus attention on the 8 million kilograms of man-made pollution floating around the Earth.

“Space waste has been gathering around the Earth since 1957, when mankind started to launch missiles and satellites,” he tells Shanghai Daily. “I saw a black-and-white picture of how the Earth is surrounded by all of them. I think this is a very sad image. Somehow we pollute not only on the Earth but also in the world around it.”

Supported by the European Space Agency, Roosegaarde and his studio finished the first phase of the project in February. That was to capture space waste with LED lights and raise public awareness of the existence of voluminous space junk and how it might affect their lives.

One of the shows was presented in the Dutch city of Almere. The studio presented a huge light installation to visualize space waste floating between 125 miles and 136,000 miles out.

“The audience could see the exact moment of an actual piece of space junk above,” Roosegaarde says.

That, according to him, is a “wow!” moment for most people.

According to the studio, there are more than 29,000 objects with diameters 10 centimeters or larger floating around the Earth. Most are parts of broken rockets and satellites.

The waste could disturb digital communications and damage current satellites, with collisions creating even more waste. At present, the problem remains unresolved and apparently unsurmountable.

But the second phase of the program is a key point. For that, Roosegaarde plans to create an artificial meteor shower with the space waste. He has bought mini satellites, which would release nets to catch the waste after satellites are launched and drag the outer space trash back to the Earth.

The waste would burn out on its way back into the Earth’s atmosphere, appearing like shooting stars. People on Earth could make a wish on space waste, Roosegaarde says, which is both romantic and environmentally friendly.

The show is expected to be presented at the Dubai World Expo 2020 or at the Expo Floriade Almere in 2022.

Some Chinese cities, such as Shenzhen and Chengdu, have expressed interest in hosting the program.

“It’s like a clean version of a fireworks show,” Roosegaarde says. “Everyone loves fireworks, but lighting firework causes air pollution. This show will show people that they can enjoy something while protecting the environment.”

The program has been highly praised by professionals.

Franco Ongaro, director of the European Space Agency, said the combination of art and technology could shed a light on aspects usually ignored.

“This cooperation is all the more important when dealing with issues like space debris, which may one day impact our future and our ability to draw maximum benefits from space,” he said.

Just like using space debris to create performances, using natural, clean energy is always on Roosegaarde’s mind. The studio’s other new program, entitled Windvogel, tries to produce green energy with generating kites. Floating in the air, the kites create a play of light and new energy.

A “smart” kite is connected by cable to a ground station, and the push and pull of the cable transforms movement into electricity that could supply energy to up to 200 households.

Roosegaarde says the project is actually the idea of the late Dutch astronaut Wubbo Ockels (1946-2014), and the studio has brought his dream to life.

The program was launched as part of a design innovation program commissioned by the Dutch government to enhance a 32-kilometer dike while highlighting its key functions: water protection and heritage, energy and mobility, and the model of a smart landscape for today and the future.

Windvogel, according to Roosegarde, is expected to come to Shanghai as well. He shows Shanghai Daily a design sketch, in which a luminous green kite flies on the Huangpu River in front of the Lujiazui skyline. Of course, the program still has a long way to go before arriving here, but Roosegaarde seems very positive about it.

“The kite is an ancient Chinese invention, and we’d like to bring it to its homeland with the idea of new, clean energy,” he says.

Roosegaarde, who is known as “the Dutch guy” in China, has launched several programs on the mainland in recent years. One of the more influential ones were smog-free rings — that is, making rings out of smog particles collected in Beijing. People don’t need to feel ashamed by the nation’s air pollution because it is not a problem unique to China, he has explained.

A year earlier, the artist set up the 7-meter-high Smog Free Tower in Beijing, which uses ionization technology to produce pollution-free air in public spaces such as parks.


Copyright © 1999- Shanghai Daily. All rights reserved.Preferably viewed with Internet Explorer 8 or newer browsers.

沪公网安备 31010602000204号

Email this to your friend