Solar Protocol (Tega Brain, Alex Nathanson, Benedetta Piantella)

Rapid Response Fellow
2020 – 2020

Tega Brain is an Australian-born artist and environmental engineer whose work examines issues of ecology, data systems and infrastructure. She has created wireless networks that respond to natural phenomena, systems for obfuscating fitness data, and an online smell-based dating service. Her work has recently been shown in the Vienna Biennale for Change, the Guangzhou Triennial, and in venues like the Haus der Kulturen der Welt and the Whitney Museum, among others.

Alex Nathanson is a multimedia artist, engineer, and educator. His work is primarily focused on exploring both the experimental and practical applications of sustainable energy technologies, particularly photovoltaic solar power. His work has been featured at Issue Project Room (NYC), the Museum of the Moving Image (NYC), Anthology Film Archives (NYC), Film Society of Lincoln Center (NYC), Dome of Visions (Copenhagen, Denmark), and the Art Prospect Festival (St. Petersburg, Russia). He was one of the long-term artists in residence at Flux Factory, in Queens, NY from 2012 to 2016, and his multi-media performance group Fan Letters was awarded residencies at The Watermill Center in 2017 and 2019. As a solar power designer, he has created interactive and educational projects for The Climate Museum, Solar One, and the NYC Department of Education, among others. He received a M.S. in Integrated Digital Media from NYU Tandon School of Engineering in 2019. Currently, he is an Adjunct Professor at NYU Tandon and is writing a book on the history of solar power art and design, which is being published by Routledge.

Benedetta Piantella is a designer turned humanitarian technologist. She has been involved in international development for the past ten years, ever since her experience of surviving the Tsunami in 2004. She has also been teaching for the past decade in different disciplines and age groups, from Lego Robotics to K-12 students to HCI, Physical Computing and Engineering for Development to graduate students at NYU. She founded two R&D companies focused on producing sustainable solutions to social problems worldwide and built partnerships with organizations such as the UN, UNICEF, The Earth Institute, Universities such as NYU, Columbia University and Princeton, and multiple NGOs. Her design research and practice focus on applying systems thinking and user-driven development to insure equitable access to life-sustaining resources, often through networks, data-collection and real-time monitoring, and distributed infrastructure.

Rapid Response Project 

Solar Protocol is an experimental network of solar powered servers installed at different locations around the world. As the sun rises and sets, each server turns on and off as its solar panel goes into sunlight or darkness. By using the logic of the sun, Solar Protocol reconfigures internet protocols with natural rather than artificial intelligence in an effort to circumnavigate dominant systems of surveillance capitalism. Just as significantly, the project demonstrates the potential for technology to be powered by alternative energy without the constraints and environmental repercussions of cheap fossil fuels.