Solar Powered Electric Chair
work in progress
group shows zur nachahmung empfohlen! / examples to follow!
expeditions in aesthetics and sustainability
Lima, Peru: Museo Metropolitano
29.10.2014 - 19.01.2015
Essen, Germany: Stiftung Zollverein
Puebla, Mexico: Capilla del Arte UDLAP
broadcast on "Thus spoke Duchamp" by Radio BUAP 14.01.2014
group show: Labor Berlin 12: Drifting
Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin
In the early nineties some new technological products became available as the military-industrial complex, suffering from the sudden post cold-war downturn in profits, looked for new markets. While becoming aware of the shifting priorities and yet continued domination of corporate industrial production, I made a sketch for a sculpture, a collage - The Solar Powered Electric Chair (1992) - which expressed my doubts about the power manipulation of technological progress, and is the starting point for this project.
It depicts and questions how our world might appear in the very near future if we fail to break out of the vicious circle of established routines for structuring society as we know them today, and to remind that many sustainable solutions have been available for extended use for 30-40 years, if not longer. Through the work I would like to raise awareness that the unavoidable transition to renewable energies should not turn into the next wave of elitist monopolies exploiting the masses, but should be developed in a way to serve the needs of the many.
Besides the obvious references SPEC makes about economic exploitation and capital punishment, the imagery subtly resonates with the last supper of Christ together with his 12 disciples, thereby questioning the real motivations and depth of compassion in our western civilization.
SOLAR POWERED ELECTRIC CHAIR (SPEC) is an interactive sculptural
installation, symbolically employing friendly renewable energy in the service of capital punishment. It questions and reflects on the direction western society will continue to develop if we are not more careful about realigning our core priorities.This art project aims to promote a stimulating and ethical dialog within the cultural and economic transition to renewable energies and sustainability. Interactively, the sculpture-users experience physical sensations: the blow-drying of hair, muscle relaxation, incremental stimulation and electrification of the nerves, etc. serve to elucidate on forms and uses of power.
SPEC is modeled after the mother of all electric chairs, "Old Sparky" from Sing Sing prison. Because of its non-conductivity and recyclability, oak is today even more of an appropriate choice as the material for the chair. Two galvanized metal wings extend outward from each side of the chair, supporting the solar panels. Battery storage units and other mechanicals are inside the pedestal. Electrodes can be attached to the subject/victim, one administered to the head, and one attached to one calf muscle. The executor’s control panel with output menu is ergonomically located at waist height on a post on the back of the pedestal.
The 11 power dial settings ...and corresponding functions of this environmentally friendly electric chair facilitate the lulling of the subject/victim into a relaxed state of euphoric bliss prior to execution. They range from the lowest setting to dry hair and cool the head; to muscle relaxation; to electrically charged filaments tickling the user's hand; to an electrostatic generator which tests the nerves, while straightening the hair; to 3 levels of gruesome sadomasochistic torture prior to Optimum Death in 2 min. (which would be ca. 2000V at level 9); and then 2 more levels of overkill ending with the chair catching fire.
SPEC is designed to be built as a fully functional off-grid unit. For safety a mechanical governor has been installed between levels 5 and 6, which may not be removed or exceeded without written consent of the attending Governor or local jurisdictional official.
David Smithson © 1992-2014, Berlin