Sustainability: More than just hot air...

Published: 19 November 2012 at 13:26

New solar-powered installation to go on show at Anglia Ruskin in Cambridge

A new art installation featuring a 45ft long representation of sustainability will be on display at Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge from 21 November until 13 December.

Andy Webster’s (Un)Sustainable?, on show at the Ruskin Gallery, aims to encourage and explore responses to the idea of sustainability, a term that some view as imperative for future thinking and actions while others see as a tired, worn-out cliché.

Webster’s work, which spells “SUSTAINABLE” in large inflatable letters, will deflate and inflate every hour courtesy of two fans, which are powered by solar panels next to the windows in the Ruskin Gallery.  However, uncertain weather conditions and reduced daylight hours at this time of year are unlikely to guarantee a reliable source of power.

Webster said:

“I don’t mind if the work fails to inflate as my own interest in it is as much to do with the sculpture being deflated as it is with being inflated.  Limiting the frequency of the inflation, or focusing on it in its deflated state, provokes many more questions than if it was on constantly. 
“Realising that one cannot simply turn the work on and have it constantly inflated, denying instant gratification, is its simple starting point.  When it flops, fails, collapses or simply doesn’t work, this asks questions about problem solving, failure, impotency, and seeming inaction.
“I also want it to embody some proper contradictions, such as the fact that it is made out of several metres of vinyl material which is made in China and then imported to the UK from Hong Kong.  Thus its own construction and realisation embodies many of the problems associated with unsustainable living.” 

As part of a competition organised by Anglia Ruskin’s Global Sustainability Institute (GSI), art students will be presenting work alongside Webster’s installation on the theme of sustainability.  The GSI was established last year and its core research is focused around personal motivations and systems change, set against the challenges of sustainability.

Dr Aled Jones, Director of the GSI, said:

“The abstract and complex nature of the sustainability agenda can lead people to switch off and feel unconnected with the issues.  Hosting Andy Webster’s (Un)Sustainable? and the student competition aims to encourage engagement with the term.”

Webster, who is also a Lecturer in Art & Environment at University College Falmouth, will discuss his work at the Ruskin Gallery on Thursday, 22 November (1-2pm).

Entrance to the Ruskin Gallery is free and the gallery is open 10am-5pm Monday to Saturday.  Please visit for further information.