AURORA: wind powered light sculpture

Permanent installation
Trinity Buoy Wharf, Story Box

Tom Wilkinson is a kinetic artist who finds the directness of wind energy particularly appealing. Aurora is an experimental wind and light-sculpture representing ten years of experimental work. This is his first artwork where wind is turned directly into light. In his previous works Wilkinson used the wind to spin illuminated elements, such as Airflow for Gallery Oldham and Light Air for Salisbury District Hospital. But they were connected to the grid, unlike Aurora, which generates its own electricity.

Aurora only lights as it turns and the colours change according to the wind speed. The shell-like form of the Savonius turbine is made from glass fiber epoxy resin, a material particularly selected to both absorb the onboard lights and sunlight, and be resistant to the corrosive nature of ultra violet rays.

He especially likes the Savonius turbine - its rippling undulations being not dissimilar from his earlier motor driven kinetic sculptures. Since 2002 he has worked in consultation with wind engineer Giles Pearson. Expert technical help was vital to what started as a public art commission for Barking Park. Pearson’s advice was to exploit the Savonius, which doesn’t produce abundant electricity, however is often used in remote places due to its simplicity and reliability to not over-spin.

The electronic engineering is by Adrian Godwin, whose experiments with software and circuitry has been essential in the development of Aurora. Godwin has now miniaturised the electronics so that the processor is powered from the wind, therefore eliminating the need for storing electricity in batteries, making the artwork more self-contained.

Wilkinson envisages such artworks could be built any scale and placed on top of buildings, cliff tops or in parks. They are simple in principle and can withstand any weather that nature cares to throw at it. In gentle winds the form undulates and oscillates. At high speeds the windmill blurs into a cylindrical form and persistence of vision engages to create fireworks in the air.

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