Right-Wing Commentators Criticize Solyndra Art Installation
Tags: California, Environmental Art, Installations, Politics, Solar Energy
When government-funded, Obama-backed solar technology firm Solyndra went bankrupt last year, the company became a target for critics of the Obama administration’s support of green energy companies. Mitt Romney visited Solyndra’s shuttered headquarters in May, calling the government investment “a symbol not of success but of failure” and “a serious conflict of interest.”
All politics aside, the bankruptcy meant an excess of millions of glass tubes originally intended to capture solar energy. JIT Transportation was hired to transport and store thousands of the purposeless tubes; $300,000 in unpaid invoices later, they decided to seek out an alternative home for them.
Cue Ronald Rael and Virginia San Fratello.
After a local TV station aired a segment of the disposal of tubes in dumpsters, Rael and San Fratello–partners in an internationally recognized architectural firm– purchased a number of them for their submission to a multi-exhibit installation of site-purpose art at the UC Berkeley Botanical Gardens.
SOL Grotto is constructed of 1,400 of these glass tubes, installed next to a waterfall in Strawberry Canyon. San Fratello told the San Francisco Chronicle: “We felt the sound and light would add a whole new layer to experiencing the creek. The glass is so conductive, even on a foggy day it glows.”
However, it wasn’t long before criticism of Solyndra overflowed into criticism of the installation. Fox News commentator Greg Gutfeld covered the exhibition this week on The Five:
“So now our loss is someone’s hip, pretentious art – which makes sense! Most modern art and alternative energies are a lot alike in that it’s up the believer to find value in it because for the rest of us, there is none. Both function as a platform for phony intellectualism, and the only energy generated comes from goofy bureaucrats drunk on our cash, driven by a need for acceptance by the cool green crowd.
“You know what? We paid for that art, so we should all get a piece! We could take a sledgehammer to it and call it performance art, and charge admittance…I’m kidding, of course, that would be wrong. But since the exhibit is kind of boring, I decided to sketch an alternative. I added a unicorn, for obvious reasons.”
At the same time, the Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee reference the alleged record-purchase by the Qatari royal family in a press release:
“American taxpayers paid $535 million for the Obama administration’s reckless investment in Solyndra, which now can be found in the foothills of Berkeley. To date, the most expensive piece of art ever sold is Paul Cézanne’s “The Card Players,” which the country of Qatar bought for $250 million in 2011 from the late Greek shipping magnate George Embiricos. With a price tag of half a billion dollars, and just $24 million expected to be repaid, the amount taxpayers forked over with little to see in return except for the “SOL Grotto” would make this piece of art shatter the previous record.
Berkeley officials were shocked at the politicization of the installation.
“We were totally taken by surprise,” said Paul Licht, Director of the Botanical Garden. “We weren’t making any political statements. It’s an attempt to create news. Not everyone likes every work in this exhibition, but I’ve met no one who doesn’t like this work. It’s a fascinating use of materials.”
SOL Grotto will be on view until January 2013.
[via Huffington Post]
Photo courtesy of Flickr: Ron Sullivan and Joe Eaton