Turning light and time into art: the giant artistic sundial Solart2

The summer solstice is a crucial moment of the year well-known in many civilisations because the Sun shines at its highest point. The upcoming solstice will be special: it’s the moment I chose to introduce Solart2 to the world and to participate to the International Year of Light and Light-based Technologies 2015 (IYL 2015).

Solart2, located in Perpignan (France), is the most important artistic sundial in Europe. The gnomon is 30 meters long, 20 meters high and weights 35 tons.

Solar2 Sundial in Perpignan, France. Credit:

Giant artistic Solart2 Sundial in Perpignan, France. Credit:

Solart2 is an authentic scientific tool belonging to the category of the horizontal sundials with a polar spire. Four very important date appear on the noon mark: winter solstice (December 21st), summer solstice (June 21st) and the equinoxes (March 20th and September 22nd).

Sundials are objects that have a long history, dating back to around 1500 BC (1). They testify to man’s interest in measuring time at all times and for a variety of uses: agriculture, religion, astronomical knowledge. The gnomon is the first astronomical instrument to tell time. The history of sundials is closely linked to that of civilizations.

The gnomon is the most important element of the sundial, the one from where the shadow can be read on the ground. The gnomon is a double metallic bar creating a perfect light lace of numbers. Cut out numbers on the surface of the arrow are used for the covering of the central dome. It’s a metaphor of the energy and the matter circulating in the universe, The absence or the presence of the numbers are only relatives states of being, two different ways to exist: the enlightened “2” on the sky, the shadow “2” and the “2” of metal on the ground are the same sign but showing itself over different appearances.

The edges of the gnomon are painted red. I use red not as a colour but as a visual value, like an optic vibration that interferes with the light.

Some visitors may see Solart2 as a contemporary sculpture and others as a sundial: both are right!

Now let’s talk about the genesis of the project. In December 2013, the Perpignan Méditerranée Communauté d’Agglomération commissioned Solart2 after an artistic competition. Solart2 was selected to embody in monumental dimensions the solar potential of the territory and to be a strong symbol of sustainable development. The technical realization of this giant sundial took more than a year but before all this, decades of research in art and sciences were necesary for me to create, define and perfect my create principles and finally build giant artistic sundials.

So, why the hour on Solart2 is different from the time shown on our watches and our computers? The point is that we are living in a virtual time. Watches, computers and global activities works on an historically modified time. The time on Solart2 is a result of the cosmos operation in its purest reality.

Actually, the time of Solart2 depends on the weather, the time of nature. The environment affects the quality of the shadow as the clouds and the night. We solved those natural aleas by using mathematics and technics but Solart2 remind us about their power and our place in the solar system. The time of Solart2 is both universal and particular to the one who’s watching it. This time is universal because it is real and doesn’t depend on the presence of a watcher or not. The solar hour exists even if no watcher is there. On the other side, the time of Solart2 is a particular time, a personal vision that cannot be share with another watcher in the world.

Solart2’s ambition is to offer to everyone an experience, the living and conscious experience of the progression of solar time.

Solart2 is the time of art.

More Information

1 – http://www-history.mcs.st-and.ac.uk/HistTopics/Sundials.html

IMG_2511Marc-André 2 Figueres (MA2F) has a Ph.D. in Art and Science (University Paris 8, 1992). He lives in France, in Paris and Perpignan. Since his thesis in 1992, he led several research projects on artistic properties and natural light. The main achievements of MA2F in this area are the “solar shootings”, the development of the photosensitive paint “sun-paint” and solar Monumental dials (including Solart2). Time and light are the main key-concepts of his work. The next artist’s projects are moving towards the representation of time and light in the public space through solar Monumental dials.

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