Christina Hemauer and Roman Keller restage energy alternatives in show at Cubitt

By Mark Sheerin | 04 May 2011
Colour photo of a man in a bath tub which is plumbed to solar panels on the back of a truck
Christina Hemauer and Roman Keller, film still from The Road Not Taken (2010)© the artist. All rights reserved
Exhibition: Spaghetti Junctions: Christina Hemauer and Roman Keller, Cubitt, London, until May 29 2011

One year on from the environmental catastrophe that was Deepwater Horizon, a new show at Cubitt explores the history of our dependence upon oil and suggests that, at one or two moments in the 20th century, things might have turned out differently.

Christina Hemauer and Roman Keller use performance, video and installation art to - as they put it - revitalise key events. Here, they restage the building of the first commercial solar power station and the installation of solar panels on the White House.

Sun of 1913 reveals the staggering fact that in Egypt solar power was up, running and viable before the First World War. But the Anglo-Persian Oil Company found oil in Iran about the same time. The hi-tech plant was abandoned after one year.

A Curiosity, a Museum Piece and an Example of a Road not Taken, meanwhile, looks at the monumental decision to symbolise America’s commitment to renewable energy by putting solar panels on the home of then-President Jimmy Carter. But these were removed during the Reagan era, for maintenance, and never replaced.

Text and video projections tell the story of the ill-fated Frank Shuman solar plant. The sad tale of the presidential panels is conveyed using archive photography and a copy of a speech Carter made on the topic, available to read off a period lectern.

It seems no coincidence that the Anglo-Persian Oil Company would go on to become BP, the people who brought you Deepwater. It is true they sponsor a good deal of art now, but this is one show they probably wouldn’t touch with a drill bore.
  • Open 12pm-6pm Wednesday-Sunday. Admission free.
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