Artist seeks to shine light on global energy issues

Thu Jul 12, 2012 12:27pm EDT
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By Venetia Rainey

LONDON (Reuters) - An ambitious new project encompassing art, design and developmental aid aims to provide a sustainable light source to replace kerosene lamps in impoverished countries, London's Tate Modern art gallery announced on Thursday.

Scandinavian artist Olafur Eliasson's "Little Sun", a bright yellow, solar-powered lamp the size and shape of a sunflower, is the center of a Tate-funded initiative developed for the London 2012 Festival, a cultural extravaganza taking place across Britain this summer in conjunction with the Olympic Games.

"He has made a beautiful object with an immense social and economic value, which has the potential to change lives in off-grid areas of the world," said Nicolas Serota, director of the gallery, in a statement.

Wearing the devices on yellow strings around their necks, 45-year-old Eliasson and business partner and engineer Frederik Ottesen said in a news conference that the "portable eye" delivers 10 times more light at a 10th of the cost of a normal kerosene lamp.

The lamp needs to be charged in the sun for five hours in order to give five hours of bright light.

"Light is for everyone - it determines what we do and how we do it. It has an evident functional and aesthetic impact on our lives," said Eliasson.

"I am confident that it is a very liberating feeling that suddenly you have access to your own power."

The lights, which should have a lifespan of between three and six years, are being rolled out within existing micro-business structures in Kenya, Ethiopia and Zimbabwe. One will cost $5.63 at wholesale, and retail at $10.   Continued...