In November of 2021, the R.A.W. enjoyed a residency as the first fellow of the University of Oregon’s Center for Art Research/Knight Campus Project Incubator program. This residency took place inside the sparkling new Phil and Penny Knight Campus for Accelerating Scientific Impact, located on the banks of the old Millrace waterway across from the Urban Farm and the Millrace studio complex in Eugene. This program offers Oregon artists the opportunity to connect with the cutting-edge technical-scientific resources available at the Knight Campus, alongside artistic and scholarly nodes in the broader UO community.
This CFAR Project Incubator (CPI) presents compelling new directions for the R.A.W., which has always been grounded in messy, mostly DIY modes and methods. For the initial proposal, I put forth the idea of engaging Knight Campus expertise and resources to engineer a system to provide solar power for the R.A.W. PostLibrary, perhaps to run a video display (I was vaguely thinking of screening videos at night for passing wildlife, inspired by the neighbors’ trail-cam images of bobcats, mountain lions, and black bear, to name a few). But then a conversation with CFAR director Brian Gillis raised the specter of alternative-alternative power: what might some options be beyond solar? In considering this question – perhaps even while mucking out Aliass’s stall, where I tend to do my best thinking – the ultimate source of R.A.W. power presented itself as the perfect answer: the R.A.W. PostLibrary must be powered by manure compost.
So began an ongoing quest to transform the hot microbial processes of manure composting into a modest source of power for the R.A.W. PostLibrary. With technical and material support from the brilliant engineers in the UO Technical Sciences Administration and Knight Campus (Geordi Helmick, Jeffrey Garman, and Clifford Dax), engineering and fabrication are underway for an experimental compost-power system using thermoelectric-generating (TEG) components that *might* eventually generate a small amount of voltage through temperature differential between hot ass compost and cold flowing water from the R.A.W. pulping pond. I say “might” because many aspects of this system have yet to be determined–first and foremost being the question of whether I can get the R.A.W. compost hot enough to make a difference.
Many other technical and conceptual questions have yet to find solutions in this developing R.A.W. compost-power system. One of which is: assuming this system can generate and harness significant voltage (likely we’re talking between 3>5v, a big assumption at this stage), in what ways will the PostLibrary put that power to work?
This question has many rich possibilities for the R.A.W. PostLibrary. Needless to say, given the tendencies of R.A.W. processes to be slow as mud, it is one that we are more than happy to quietly ruminate on for some time to come. But stay tuned, because when and if this voltage does flow, you just might be privy to (cue up MonsterTruck Rally announcer’s voice) an awesome display of R.A.W. power . . . .