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“New Visions,” the 2nd Edition of the Henie Onstad Triennial for Photography and New Media opens in Oslo (NO). A total of 22 artists including Anna Ehrenstein, Anna Engelhardt, Kristina Õllek, Monira Al Qadiri, Emilija Škarnulytė (image: RAKHNE, 2023), and Istvan Virag contribute media and installations, drawing on traditional mediums and new modes of automated image-making to underscore the ubiquity of “resource extraction, energy distribution, and data harvesting.”

“Current mining operations have now become their own geological force, scraping, sorting and collecting more dirt, rock and sediment than the world’s rivers, wind, rain and glaciers every year.”
– Canadian journalist Andrew Nikiforuk, citing British geologist and Extraction to Extinction (2021) author David Howe in a scathing critique of the extractivism-powered “green techno-dream.” If continued, he writes, “the pile of human mined materials on this groaning planet will triple global biomass by 2040.”
“By attempting to shield consumers from high prices, governments will only encourage consumption via lower prices, prolonging the energy crisis.”
– Oxford Institute for Energy Studies Senior Research Fellow Adi Imsirovic, advising against governments deploying “subsidies, retail price caps, and tax reductions” to placate cash-strapped consumers. “Such actions only support the rich,” encourage fossil fuel use, and stifle innovation, he argues.

“This Current Between Us,” an installation and performance program, opens at the Neo Faliro Steam Power Plant in Piraeus, Greece. Artists including Nikos Alexiou, Hypercomf, and Miriam Simun contribute works exploring energy and production in response to the decommissioned site. The latter’s performance Do Not Break Out of Prior Range (image), for example, draws on a blender, lightbulb, and power cord—and Simun announcing “this isn’t just a milkshake, it’s a crucial north-south energy bridge” into a microphone.

“Some institutions are spending more on their energy bills than they are on their exhibition programs, which is crazy.”
– Heath Lowndes, Managing Director of Gallery Climate Coalition (GCC), on the ecological and financial footprint of climate-control systems used in collection management. “The regulations governing them were set in the 1950s and collection managers are still largely tied to these antiquated, irrelevant standards, which means they basically keep art in a fridge.”
“Paired together, you’d have nearly a whole kilowatt of power being sucked up by just the processor and graphics card. Everything else will absolutely push this system over the 1000W line.”
TechRadar computing editor John Loeffler, on next-gen Nvidia and AMD circuits hogging energy. “Value and efficiency seem to have been completely thrown by the wayside, and that isn’t just a mistake, it’s increasingly unethical.”
“At some point, we’re amassing all this computing power at the consumer level for the sake of amassing this power because we can. Then we just go and use it to stream Netflix.”
– Tech journalist John Loeffler, commenting on rumoured 200% performance increases in upcoming Nvidia and Intel chips. Concerned about financial accessibility and egregious power consumption he concludes “it’s okay to say, ‘you know, 60 to 70 fps at 1440p is good enough,’ because honestly, it is.”
“The evidence now suggests a 3 to 4 degree warming by mid-century, not accounting for tipping points—which could easily be 5 or 6 degrees.”
Benjamin Sovacool, University of Sussex energy researcher and one of the lead authors of the recent IPCC Working Group III report, on the damning implications of current climate legislation implementation gaps. “Even if we were to meet 100% of the 2015 Paris accord, we’d still be pretty far off from 2 degrees,” says Sovacool.
“It takes at least 10 hours to produce 1 kWh on a bike generator. The electricity price in France is roughly €0.20 per kWh, so that’s what you would earn that day!”
Kris de Decker, Barcelona-based journalist and Low-Tech Magazine founder, on how the taxation of labour—instead of energy—is driving automation
“The sunniest place in the world Azerbaijan is only four times sunnier than the cloudiest place in the world, Norway. Contrast this with how oil is distributed, you’ll see that the places with the most oil have a million times as much as the places with the least.”
Chris Adams, British technologist, Green Web Foundation director, and Climate Action.tech co-organiser, on the equity of renewable energy
“Talking about building this city beside a volcano is like thinking you are rich because you live next to a bank.”
Ricardo Navarro, El Salvadoran ecologist and head of the country’s Center of Appropriate Technology (CESTA), on President Nayib Bukele’s plans for a “Bitcoin City” powered by volcanoes. “Geothermal still costs more than oil, otherwise we would already be using more of it,” Navarro notes. Geothermal energy also needs steam and groundwater, Navarro adds, “but we already have problems with not enough water in El Salvador.”

Kyle McDonald shares a “bottom-up” estimate and tracker of Ethereum emissions and energy use that considers key variables such as hashrate and hashing efficiency, hardware and data centre overhead, grid loss, and power supply efficiency. According to the artist’s analysis, the popular cryptocurrency network consumes around 23 terawatt hours per year—as much as the entire state of Massachusets. “Ethereum is effectively operating two to three coal power plants,” McDonald writes on Medium.

“What if an exhibition had an energy budget? How would it affect its design, organization, management, and activation?” With 16/2017, Spanish artist Joana Moll forces Barcelona’s Arts Santa Mònica Center to cut its energy usage by 50% during the “Exposar · No exposar-se · Exposar-se · No exposar” exhibition. Named after a failed policy to half the region’s CO2 emissions by 2030, 16/2017 prescribes weekly meetings to monitor the energy budget and negotiate corrective measures with management, artists, and the public.

Marjolijn Dijkman’s solo exhibition “Electrify Everything” opens at NOME Gallery, Berlin, bringing together three interrelated bodies of work that ruminate on the history of electricity and the environmental impact of modern energy storage. The photo series Earthing Discharge (2019-21, image), for example, is made with a high voltage electro-photography technique in which the Dutch artist uses a discharge plate made from a tin-coated sheet, the same material as used in touch screen devices.

MIT researchers announce a breakthrough in magnet technology that paves the way to green fusion power. “On Sep 5, a large high-temperature superconducting electromagnet was ramped up to a field strength of 20 tesla, the most powerful magnetic field ever created,” MIT News reports. The new magnet allows far better control of fusion plasma inside a much smaller reactor—a watershed moment for the technology. “None of us are trying to win trophies at this point,” notes MIT’s Maria Zuber. “We’re trying to keep the planet livable.”

Alex Nathanson
A History of Solar Power Art and Design
A survey of creative applications of photovoltaic power, including sound art, wearable technology, digital media, and industrial design
“As of the second quarter of 2021, governments around the world have allocated around USD 380 billion on clean energy measures as part of their economic response to the Covid-19 crisis. This is around 2% of the total fiscal support in response to Covid-19.”
– International Energy Agency (IEA) analysts in their Sustainable Recovery Tracker, in which they estimate CO2 emissions will climb “to record levels in 2023 continuing to rise thereafter”

To demonstrate Ethereum’s greener future, software engineer and Rocket Pool contributor Joe Clapis runs lightweight proof of stake validator Nimbus on a Rasberry Pi, a 10,000 mAh power bank, and SSD—powering 10 validators for 10 hours. “The Pi consumes 5 watts, so that comes to around 0.1 KWh of energy per day, or 0.01KWh per validator,” notes the Status Network. “In other words, 3600 times more energy efficient than Bitcoin proof of work—a 99.97% reduction in power.”

“Flare gas could just as well power carbon capture machines, water desalination plants, or data centres that support more widely used applications. There’s a social value in those things that I don’t see for Bitcoin.”
Alex Trembath, deputy director of the American clean energy think tank Breakthrough Institute, on Big Oil and Gas now also mining crypto
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