Is it time to ‘Pimp Up Your Turb’? Should Wind Turbines Become Art?

A wind turbine in the Austrian district of Unterlaa near to Vienna has had art lovers and critics, plus hundreds of locals and people for further afield, in discussion as to the merits and perils of changing the aesthetics of turbines.

The reason for the discussion is that Austrian artist and graphic designer, Julia Bichler, was given permission to make an artistic statement about wind energy on one of Austria’s 1,100 wind turbines as part of an IG Windkraft (Austrian Wind Energy Association) competition.

pimp up the wind turbine by adding yellow foil depicting animated characters

Julia won the competition by choosing to pimp up the wind turbine by adding yellow foil depicting animated characters reminiscent of those seen in classic children’s books. The work of adding the foils was undertaken by specialist industrial climbing firm Skyworkers and makes for impressive time-lapsed viewing.

Some 400 entries were made to the competition, which itself took inspiration from one of the first works of art connected with wind power – Dutch artist Rembrandt van Rijn’s classic 1645 oil on canvas entitled ‘The Mill’.

Rembrandt van Rijn’s classic 1645 oil on canvas entitled ‘The Mill’

How long, we ask, will it take before we have wind turbine sculptures that depict a turbine as a giraffe, turbines depicted as greek columns, offshore turbines depicted as a shoal of flying fish, or ‘turb pop art’ depicting old style politicians with spinning bow-ties.

Perhaps this is a case of using art to mask what is art already.

The jury is out as to whether wind turbines are aesthetically pleasing already and there are two strands of thought. The first is that we need to mask wind turbines because they are ugly, the second being we need to delight in their beauty.

Our Victorian ancestors had similar concerns about large metal structures back in the 1800s. These were regarding two of the greatest structural icons on our planet today, the Eiffel Tower in Paris, and Tower Bridge in London. At the time of their design they were both just regarded as being great lumps of functional metal that would ruin the skyline of their respective cities. One, Tower Bridge, was regarded as so ugly it was clad in stone, while the other, the Eiffel Tower was regarded as being so unpleasing to the eye that it was originally slated to be demolished twenty years after the exposition it was built for – indeed, at least one artist of the time, Guy de Maupassant, supposedly lunched at the restaurant in the tower because ‘it was the one place in the city where the tower was not visible’.

Both structures, one masked, one open, are today seen as beautiful and visited by millions of people every year.

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