Educational Context

The Three "Big Ideas" behind Secrets of the Sun

Secrets of the Sun (S.O.S.) is an interdisciplinary artwork about our complex relationship with the Sun. S.O.S. combines the emotional impact of art with science, technology, and the environment in a participatory learning experience with universal cultural appeal.

S.O.S. is based on three “BIG IDEAS”:

  1. Sunlight is Energy.
  2. All Life is Solar-Powered.
  3. Everything is Connected to Everything Else.

Art and Performance—S.O.S. creates a new art medium using Sunlight as “paint”, and architecture and viewers as “canvas”. Music and sound design make S.O.S. into a participatory multimedia art form. Formal and informal dance groups have performed at S.O.S..

Science—S.O.S. viewers can explore such issues as the electromagnetic spectrum, optical physics, Solar energy, Solar power, color vision, photosynthesis, meteorology, climate change, astronomy, time – seasons – calendars, and environmental preservation.

Technology—S.O.S. uses laser technology and photovoltaic panels that generate electricity from sunlight. Computer-controlled electronics align the heliostat with the sun throughout the changing seasons.

Environment—S.O.S. engages us in vital environmental issues of our time: air pollution, global warming, ozone depletion, and loss of biodiversity caused by our fossil fuel-powered society; and the promise of a clean, clear future using renewable energy generated by the sun.

Paul B. MacCreadyEngineer and Inventor of human-powered flight, Chairman of the Board, AeroVironment Inc.

Secrets of the Sun can broaden people¹s thinking, get them fascinated by the connections between different topics — and even enthusiastic enough to talk and argue about these things. It combines technology, the human senses, beauty, art and sound. It¹s part of what it takes to get the most important force in the world today — the human mind—a little closer to wisdom rather than intelligence.

Edmund PillsburyMuseum Director, Kimball Art Museum, Fort Worth, Texas

It is impressive enough that Peter Erskine has created something of such ingenuity and simplicity yet almost infinite complexity. It is even more astonishing that the ensemble has such extraordinary artistic integrity and conviction while at the same time addressing critical environmental and social issues with which our society is only beginning to grapple and which pose one of the greatest challenges to the survival of our society in the next millennium.

Thomas E. LovejoySmithsonian Institution

Someone like Peter Erskine (who combines a sense of art with an understanding of how the world works) must have been responsible for Stonehenge.

Schmidti18, Youth Gang Member, Berlin, Germany

S.O.S. changed my life and my whole attitude. It changed my behavior directly. Now I appreciate nature, my health, my friends, my life. S.O.S. showed me that we live in a fragile and impermanent time. My family and friends talk about it. We cannot perform as before — being destructive just for fun or because we feel desperate and frustrated. Now we help each other to accomplish awareness. Now I have to do something positive. Now.

Professor John R. ClarkeRegents Professor of Art History, University of Texas, Austin, Texas

Erskine has developed a project that is more holistic than any site-specific installation… more thought-provoking than any conceptual piece… and visually more enthralling than any painting, sculpture, or light-installation work in the past two decades.

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