Solar Sallet

collaboration with Matthew Friday, 2021 

Solar Sallet [sallet = an archaic French/English word referring to 'salad' or 'a mess of greens' used in the Appalachian dish ‘poke sallet’], utilizes the dye of pokeweed berries with titanium nanoparticles as a photosensitizer in the production of organic dye sensitized solar cells (DSSC). In this iteration with Matthew Friday, created for Owning Earth at Unison Art in New Paltz, NY, the pokeweed DSSC are implemented toward powering a small hydroponic garden of ruderal plant species through a network of tubes winding through an elevated spruce root ball and amphorae.

While DSSC has been around since the Grätzel cell—designed by Michael Grätzel and Brian O’Regan in the late 80’s/ early 90’s, the usage of pokeberry for DSSC was first put forth by researchers at Wake Forest University’s Center for Nanotechnology and Molecular Materials in the early 2010’s as an alternative to more expensive/ finite mineral supplies employed in solar technology as well as its capacity as a renewable resource due to the fecundity of pokeweed within nutrient poor/ distressed environments and its applicability to varied climates, large natural dye yield (that was reportedly twice as efficient as other tested organic sources), and ability for its young shoots and leaves to be used as a food source. 

Solar Sallet is part of a broader investigation into both endotic (common/ local/ overlooked) materials and ruderal ecologies. The term ruderal, as adapted from urban ecology, refers to life forms that emerge and thrive in environments disturbed by natural phenomena and human activity. Speaking more broadly, the ruderal exists at the margins of the forces of state planning and capitalism’s project of organizing nature—simultaneously holding a mirror to dominant systems while pointing toward forms of resistance and utopian otherness.

Who Owns the Earth? by Louis Bury in hyperallergic.

Owning Earth catalogue

Solar Sallet was created in part with the support of The Frank Ratchye STUDIO for Creative Inquiry at Carnegie Mellon University, The Puffin Foundation, and Arts Mid-Hudson.