sunset | Elisabeth Fiedler, 2021

Anchored on a grassy slope, Judith Fegerl’s slightly dystopian structure is mounted with various photovoltaic panels. Coloured by our experience, we are reminded of the constructions fixed on roofs and houses to hold photovoltaic panels. Roughly knee-high, the functional steel frame holds nine solar panels sourced from the research project Sustainable Photovoltaics (PVRe2), some of them 20 years old, of different sizes, production and areas of application. Recycling and repair of old PV panels are the research focus of this alliance of industrial and science partners: Silicon Austria Labs, Polymer Competence Center Leoben, Montanuniversität Leoben and the Austrian Research Institute for Chemistry and Technology.

The artist visualises systems and relationships, examining their transient and provisional nature. This is done in the gesture of a jotted-down drawing rather than as a rigidly positioned statement. Here Fegerl shows energy sources and their technical, contentual and temporal progressions, which are understood as a fundamental achievement of technical revolutions, but may also perform their useful function as concealed and as invisibly as possible.

In the knowledge that part of the Austrian Sculpture Park was once a landfill site, Judith Fegerl reflects on the attempt to sustain material and resource cycles.
In this way, the downsides of ‘clean energy’ – in particular the problems of production and disposal – are explored, while the residual energy produced by the panels that cannot escape is considered, together with the different forms, surfaces and formats, changes in colour and material. The recomposition and installation of the used parts given to the artist opens up the theme of ‘second life’, appearing optionally in the possibilities of separation of precious metal and other materials or repair.

Connected to one another, differently shaped cells – round or angular depending on the stage of technical development – have an aesthetic structure reminiscent of constructivist and minimalist works of art, as well as urban planning considerations. Silicon cells disrupt ordered patterns and produce the effect of ice flowers on the surface. Both separated and at the same time reassembled, they appear broken, but in fact they still generate electricity – they are active factors. So their charged nature continues, they still produce energy; liberated from any useful function, they stand for themselves.

Generally perceived as an ‘eyesore’ on roofs, here the panels emerge as autonomous statements. Fegerl is interested in their inherent energy and the untapped potential they hold. Questions about expiry dates, reanimation or circularity – i.e. questions about time – converge in an artistic reformulation with questions about space, its function and availability.

Technical-formal parameters of the rectangular format, in which round, angular, mono- and polycrystalline cells are applied to a plastic layer and laminated, as well as the arranged quantities or the colour palette, encounter aesthetic considerations of repetitive pattern structures that reflect and inherently bear continuity and infinity. Architectural principles are investigated as much as the issue of pattern and ornament. The microstructure of the singular cell as well as the manner of composition of the whole structure evokes similarities to delicately woven materials. In all of these aspects, surprizingly many relations open up and shift through this work.
Fegerl, who continuously questions and challenges technology in her work, takes the liberty of intuitively composing the given, choosing to arrange the cells playfully rather than systematically.

The title sunset consciously refers to the complexity of the technical expression ‘server sunset’. The term server – implying both service and constant function – is coupled here with the romantic topos of the sunset. This euphemistic term is applied in economics when the product has reached the end of its capacity and usefulness, and is withdrawn from the market due to uselessness.

The sun shines on each of the panels, it is the basic condition for their use. With the so called ‘sunset clause’ a predetermined expiry date is inscribed.

Logical materials bearing traces of wear, evidence of former energy sources, stripped of their function, are what attract Judith Fegerl for her work. She draws on these, exploring them as new potential raw material resources.

Judith Fegerl thus delves into what lies beneath the visible, the deeper layers of architectures, spaces, surfaces and landscapes. In doing so, she interrupts constructed circuits of thought and opens up new perspectives and perceptual possibilities. Functionalities are examined, new identity structures facilitated. She explores apparent discrepancies such as technology and body, mechanical design and development of awareness, organic and inorganic – so revealing, juxtaposing, connecting and rethinking them.