Marjan van aubel turns solar cells into ethereal lexus LF-ZC sculpture at miami art week

Designboom_ Miami Art Week 2023: Dutch designer Marjan van Aubel enhances the power of her trademark use of solar cells to create the ‘8 Minutes and 20 Seconds’ installation for Lexus. At first glance, visitors at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami (ICA Miami) appear to see a true-to-size Lexus Future Zero-emission Catalyst (LF-ZC) concept car sitting in the Museum’s sculpture garden. At closer inspection, the vehicle-like form comes to life as an interactive artwork that reacts in light and sound as people approach – all powered by solar.

The ‘8 Minutes and 20 Seconds’ installation by Marjan van Aubel awakens to the presence of viewers as they move around it and explore different perspectives of the vehicle-sized shape. Four individual motion sensors spark to life and emit light to bounce and ripple like water across the artwork’s base, representing the Lexus car‘s EV platform. At unexpected intervals, the sculpture orchestrates an ephemeral spectacle: light cascades across it as a melody crescendoes, mirroring the car dynamics in motion and offering a sensory glimpse into the energy of driving. As the day progresses, the warm sunrise hues reflecting throughout the OPV sheets give way to cooler tones. ‘The installation isn’t about light but about what light can do. […] We’re playing with lighting,‘ Marjan van Aubel tells designboom in an exclusive interview during Miami Art Week 2023.

The one-to-one scale sculpture harnesses solar power, drawing energy from the OPV sheets throughout the day. These solar cells accumulate energy into batteries discreetly nestled within the sculpture’s base, again mirroring Lexus’ concept car. T energy is stored as a reservoir of solar-derived power to help sustain its captivating displays and features, most notably after sunset. ‘What’s nice about these organic photovoltaic cells is that they don’t include synthetic materials like traditional solar cells. The payback time is way less; it can take only a couple of months instead of a couple of years. Soon people will be able to print them on an inkjet in whatever shape we like,’ the designer points out during our conversation.

The soundscape for ‘8 Minutes and 20 Seconds’ voices an ambient melody, weaving together warm string instruments, soft piano and chimes that harmonize with the surrounding sculpture garden. Intermittently, the music is embellished with birdsong and other sound effects. The composition also introduces woody bamboo notes as a subtle reference to the original car’s interior bamboo material, integrating its essence into the auditory experience. On view through December 17th, the installation marks Lexus’ second year partnering with ICA Miami and the brand’s sixth immersive experience during Miami Art & Design Week. Marjan van Aubel leverages her show-stopping creation to inspire visitors to ponder the immense potential of solar power: ‘I really believe that the future is solar. We have to get to that transition as quickly as possible. […] My hope is to change the common perception and shift from solar technology to solar design.’ The designer concludes, ‘Basically, everything can be solar!’

Marjan Van Aubel previously worked with Lexus as a mentor to the winners of the 2023 Lexus Design Award. Her work is held in the collections of institutions like MoMA, Vitra Design Museum, Stedelijk Museum, and the Victoria and Albert Museum.