Green Smoke Starts People Thinking About Energy

green smoke starts people thinking about energy

Image via: HeHe

The artists Helen Evans and Heike Hanson, who work together under the alias HeHe, give new meaning to the term "chemical sensitivity" by lighting up the smoke trailing from a tall smokestack which looms over the city of Helsinki. The plume which is normally cloaked in the darkness becomes lit for all to see. And ponder. The most curious aspect of the project may be its location: what does the fact that two French artists are working in the capital of Finland reveal about the attitude of the power plant managers? Because this project achieved much more than merely a laser show.With this installation, HeHe comes right to the heart of a matter which has plagued the environmental movement since its inception. How do you get people to care about what they cannot see? How does one conceptualize a carbon footprint? When the river is not on fire, does anyone realize how much pollution is there?

But HeHe did not want to create a work of symbolic protest. The Green Cloud project is about social process, about the fact that the power plant managers do not own the green cloud:

the cloud belongs to us all.
Every night for a week, the lasers painted the emissions of the smokestack green. On the last day of the installation, an unplug event resulted in residents lowering energy use in amounts equivalent to the power generated by the installation of one windmill.

Achieving this required the cooperation of the power plant owners and managers, in particular for gathering the data. The fact that such data is not easily available, attributed to the monitoring of power at each point of use rather than in a conglomerated manner, is a lesson in itself in this era where energy consumption approaches limits heretofore unknown. It is well worth reading the article on the Green Cloud project written by Helen Evans in its entirety. It is not long, but packed with interesting commentary on the "making of" the green cloud. More pictures of the installation can be seen along with the article.

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