About Little Sun Project
Little Sun transforms the light that is for all of us into light that is for each of us.
Around 1.6 billion people worldwide currently live without access to the electrical
grid. Many rely on kerosene lanterns for lighting, but kerosene is expensive and
a health hazard. A ten-year-old doing her homework in the evening to the light of
a wick-based kerosene lantern breathes in an amount of pollution equivalent to
smoking 40 cigarettes per day.
Light is for everyone – it determines what we do and how we do it. It has a clear
functional and aesthetic impact on our lives. I have always considered light to
be more than just something that illuminates things. Life and light are actually
inseparable, and for some time now, I have wanted to work not just with light in
museums and exhibitions, but to do something where I use light in a more ambitious
way that is integrated into the world.
This is why, together with engineer Frederik Ottesen, I have developed the solar-
powered lamp Little Sun. What is interesting about solar energy is that it takes
something that is for all of us – the sun – and makes it available to each of us.
Little Sun uses the natural energy of sunlight where electricity is not available,
reliable, or affordable.
By replacing kerosene lanterns with Little Sun lamps, a family living off-grid can
reduce their lighting energy costs by 90% over three years – and receive 10 times
stronger and better-quality light. Five hours of natural sunlight converts to a full
evening of Little Sun light. Little Sun makes light for living – for cooking, eating,
for reading, writing, for looking, for looking at. It is the foundation for studying, for
social encounters, aesthetic experiences, work, and commerce.
Little Sun is a work of art that works in life.
Over the years, I have explored our modes of perceiving space, time, and
society. My artworks amplify our senses and how they work. They invite
visitors and users to consider and reconsider how they perceive and
understand the world and to question what it means to live and act in our
I find it important to critically engage in both local contexts and global
discussions, to contribute. Our active involvement has consequences for
the world, and so does art.
An artwork is never just the object; it is also the experience and its contextual
impact, how it is used and enjoyed, and how it raises questions and changes ways
of thinking and living. The same is true of Little Sun. The solar-powered light and the
activities it enables are just one element of the artwork – equally important is the
way it connects us and what it tells us about the current state of energy access. Its
distribution, business plan, and successful integration into off-grid communities –
its entire journey from production to usage – is also all part of the art.
Little Sun is a response to our present situation, where natural resources are no
longer abundant. Energy shortage and unequal energy distribution demand that
we reconsider how our life-sustaining systems function. I see Little Sun as a wedge
to open up this urgent discussion from the perspective of art, to raise awareness
about energy access and the unequal distribution of energy today.
Join us online:
www.littlesun.com • twitter: @LittleSun • facebook.com/ilovelittlesun
Image:Tomas Gislason/Tate Modern
Olafur Eliasson (born 1967) is a Danish-Icelandic artist known for sculptures and large-scale installation art employing elemental materials such as light, water, and air temperature to enhance the viewer’s experience. In 1995 he established Studio Olafur Eliassonin Berlin, a laboratory for spatial research. Eliasson represented Denmark at the 50th Venice Biennale in 2003 and later that year installed The Weather Project in the Turbine Hall of Tate Modern, London.
Eliasson has engaged in a number of projects in public space, including the intervention Green river, carried out in various cities between 1998 and 2001; the Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2007, London, a temporary pavilion designed with the Norwegian architectKjetil Thorsen; and The New York City Waterfalls, commissioned by Public Art Fund in 2008.