Throughout the pandemic, we have seen various reactions from the art world, from artists themselves depicting their experience to institutional responses to the widespread closures of establishments. Very few have tried to actually solve the problem though. Then there was Daan Roosegaarde.
Although we only talked about Daan Roosegarde last week, featuring his incredible agricultural installations that exists at the axis of science, technology and art, it makes sense to give his Urban Sun creation its own space. In a similar vein to his previous works, the Dutch creator seeks to make real change through creative and provocative thinking.
The realm of coronavirus has largely been left to scientists - although almost everybody on your newsfeed claims to be one now. It doesn't have to be that way. What this means is that everyday people who could make a small difference are opting not to open their mouths for fear of being told to leave it to the scientists that know better. The thing is, because it affects everyone - we all have a vested interest in making a change.
Roosegaarde, an artist/scientist/technologist from the Netherlands is never one to see a problem and shy away from it. Of course, he collaborates with experts in the field, but the fact that he isn’t necessarily one himself doesn’t dissuade him from applying highly creative thinking to these problems.
One of the most pervasive problems during the lockdown period is that of isolation. Even when walking in public, there has probably never been a time where people have felt so alone. Mask on, head down, we go about our daily business and then go home to our safe bubbles. Everyone is a potential carrier. That’s how we have been made to feel through a constant bombardment of social engineering from governments and public voices in social media. We are the danger.
Determined to challenge this new status-quo, Roosegaarde has built something - or rather has re-imagined something that sort of already existed - to be useful in this new context. His Urban Sun idea has two clear strengths. Firstly, the sun is a feel-good symbol. When we imagine its warmth and the longer days, we picture being together, sharing stories at barbeques and sitting in beer gardens or parks.
Secondly and most importantly, it almost completely eradicates the presence of the virus. So, how does it work? Using UVC light, with a 222nm wavelength, Roosegaarde’s consultations with designers and scientists have helped him realise his vision of identifying a type of light with no harmful effects to humans, that is able to eradicate the virus almost completely.
Beaming down overhead, the circle is a safe space in public for human gatherings to recapture the intimacy that now seems like a figment of our collective imagination. Of the idea, a text from the artist’s site reads:
It acts as an additional layer of protection to current government rules. URBAN SUN aims to inspire hope. It combats the negative impact of social isolation by aiming to improve cultural gatherings, sporting events, public squares, and schoolyards.
Solutions needn’t only come from the science community in the form of a ‘cure’, but can come from any walk of life. When something impacts so many lives, we all become stakeholders in the problem. Roosegaarde’s courage and innovation shine their own light on the future as an indicator of exactly what is possible if we put our minds to it and, ultimately, that the shared laughs in public spaces are hopefully just around the corner.
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