Tilting at Turbines and Urban Turbines

Through Tilting at Turbines, I have begun engaging the public in conversations, installations and immersive performances about the perceived beauty of turbines versus their value, through playful comedy and art.

I saw turbines on the motorway from a friend’s car in 2014, and to me they looked like beautiful herds of majestic, docile animals. Flocks of birds, even. It felt like spotting rare wildlife. It made me think about turbines more, and appreciate their form as well as their function. I find them peaceful and calming too look at, and I wonder why not everyone does. As they become more accepted as beautiful and useful, I want to explore the way public acceptance has grown, historic and current arguments against them, and look at reasons behind why some people absolutely love them. Motifs and themes of circles, motors, sails and ‘choosing to stay still’ vs. ‘being stuck’ abound.

I wanted to find ways to convey my feeling to others.
Wind turbines are important for the country’s infrastructure and for the environment, and have outstanding potential for sustainable solutions to the energy crisis. With the UK government cutting subsidies to renewable energy while other parts of Europe and the world celebrate 100% wind power months, it is time to engender love for and interest in on and off shore wind turbines so that more people actively fight for their value. But what about culturally? More and more reports show that holiday makers and residents living near turbines year round like or are indifferent to them. The perceived ‘nimbyism’ of naysayers doesn’t really seem to be a factor any more. But how can we get people to love them? Fight for them? I have a few ideas.

Personifying industrial objects like train engines already occurs in popular culture – perhaps very young children would also enjoy learning about turbines and energy through imaginative play – by pretending they are hosting families of visiting rare birds and creating a spotters’ guide.

Urban turbines
And in urban homes – cities use so much energy but we don’t really get to see the truly large turbines – let’s bring the outside in: visitors to my pop up craft stall are able explore using turbines as a decorative art motif by viewing a small display of fashions and homewares and creating their own, using laser-cut pendants and chains, rubber stamps, ribbon and note paper.

After proof of concept with an initial piece for the Access Space 20x20 exhibition in 2014, I began to explore public responses to turbines in rural vs urban environments, and after developing a set of stencils and screenprint/wheatpaste designs I have taken this motif further into home-based decorative arts, fashion and decor, and the piece has evolved into a playful and surreal public engagement enquiry around wind turbines as endangered wildlife. This project most recently featured as an installation companion piece for a related children’s engineering project weekend at the Museum of Science and Industry during the Science Festival in partnership with Siemens. I am currently developing a project with Sheffield Festival of the Mind for this September where I will install 3-storey high urban turbine murals to buildings in Sheffield to bring the beauty and value of vertical axis wind turbines, usually seen in rural and coastal areas, into urban settings where more energy is used. I have begun creating images of turbines on well known buildings, potential sites for this work. I discuss my love of turbines in the podcast linked below. Here is a short video of the initial turbines that inspired the first painting. https://vimeo.com/103479066

20x20, Manchester Science Festival 2015, ongoing

mixed media, cross platform