ON JULY 28, the famed Tate Modern in London will go dark after sundown to support a cause. In the ensuing darkness, visitors will negotiate the museum’s corridors and exhibitions with just a solar-powered light in hand to guide the way.
But few of these visitors would likely be aware that a Singaporean hand lies behind the light’s design and manufacture. The solar light, christened Little Sun for its shape and its vivid yellow, was put together by artist and environmental entrepreneur Irene Lee.
It is being launched at the Tate this summer as part of the London extravaganza to be held in tandem with this year’s Olympic Games. Little Sun will be on sale at the Tate throughout the Games, and proceeds will fund its distribution to communities in Ethiopia that live off the grid.
Little Sun was conceived by Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson – the man behind 2O03’s The Weather Project installation at the Tate – earlier this year as “a work of art that works in life”. He intends the solar light, which is shaped like a little sun, to spark discussion on sustainable energy. Shortly after, he roped in Dr Lee, a doctoral graduate from Harvard University who majored in environmental technology), to design and build Little Sun. They met while sitting next to each other at the dinner party. You call it serendipity or destiny, I don’t know,” she said. “We started talking about the environment, sustainable energy and art, and that was how our friendship began.”
Dr Lee is the founder of Dilco Solar, a solar energy consultancy registered in both Germany and Singapore. Both Mr Eliasson and Dr Lee have much bigger plans for Little Sun. They aim to tie up with public, private and non-profit organisations, both here and abroad, to fund and provide these solar lights to rural communities worldwide that have no access to electricity. “Every day when I wake up, I want to do something to move (the project) forward, because I know that I’m helping a lot of people out there with no basic necessities, like light. This is to make the world a better place,” Dr Lee said.