Introducing Sunflower Lab 🌻
A Solarpunk themed science lab in Bombay Beach, California
This article is about Sunflower Lab -- A Solarpunk themed science lab at Bombay Beach, California.
Solarpunk is an art and philosophy movement picturing an utopian vision of the future. It depicts a post-scarcity society where humans live in harmony with our environment and each others, utilize technology to regenerate our overall wellbeing.
It' is about eco tech innovations as much as it's about a new ideological framework for a more egalitarian and Protopian world.
Solarpunk is about finding ways to make life more wonderful for us right now, and more importantly for the generations that follow us – i.e., extending human life at the species level, rather than individually. Our future must involve repurposing and creating new things from what we already have (instead of 20th century “destroy it all and build something completely different” modernism). Our futurism is not nihilistic like cyberpunk and it avoids steampunk’s potentially quasi-reactionary tendencies: it is about ingenuity, generativity, independence, and community.
And yes, there’s a -punk there, and not just because it’s become a trendy suffix. There’s an oppositional quality to solarpunk, but it’s an opposition that begins with infrastructure as a form of resistance.
— Adam Flynn, Hieroglyph
If you’re interested in delving deeper into the Solarpunk rabbit hole, here are some resources we’ve compiled in the last couple of years:
The Salton Sea was famous for its dead fishes, severely polluted by the agricultural rundown from nearby farms, and it is shrinking drastically every year.
Bombay Beach is a little town right by the Salton Sea, an abandoned beach resort now revitalized by artists.
The Agartha project was born at Mars College 2022, an artist residency nearby, emphasizing practicing self-reliance, collective knowledge exchange, do-ocracy and creative AI. The vision for Agartha was about on researching and building about Solarpunk communities and lifestyles, and discovering exitutional communities similar to Mars College.
In 2023 I have acquired a piece of land in Bombay Beach to exercise Agartha’s research into the physical realm -- a place where we can actually burry compost, plant green things, build Solarpunk machines, live, gather, celebrate and grow.
Bombay Beach offers already a very unique setting, it's a small town of a few hundreds residents, yet the diversity of culture and ideology here seems to be off the chart, there are artists, gardeners, architects, engineers, programmers, builders, local retirees, international immigrants, all living in a small town of 5 streets and 8 avenues in a pretty harmonious fashion, accepting our differences while caring for one another.
At Bombay Beach you'd get the tranquility of a small town and the diversity of a metropolis. It's laid back and innovative, comforting and experimental, soft, lovely and rough on the edges.
I imagine the culture of up-cycling, composting, self-reliance and living a 'Solarpunk' lifestyle would be cohesive and complimentary to the culture phenomenon that's already going on here.
Purpose of Sunflower Lab
The vision for Sunflower lab is to be a Solarpunk park and experimental science lab.🌻
A minimal viable product of this vision, is to host our first Solarpunk themed art exhibit for Biennale 2024 -- a local art exhibit hosted at Bombay Beach every year during end of March. During last Biennale in 2023, the entire town was transformed into an amazing festival for a weekend, the energy was high and events were amazing. I'd love to advocate for Solarpunk ideologies at this highly energized event.
A list of things we dream to curate for Biennale 2024:
3D Printing with Trash
We're working with our friend Sam who plans to build an up-cycle station of trash shredders and printers on the land, and we plan to set up a trash printing collection and service inside the Pink Trailer for the Biennale art show.
Check out Sam's Patreon to learn more about the awesome work he's done! ⚡️
Our lovely neighbor Behn who is an amazing professional architect has been making these very lightweight yet sturdy bricks out of recycled paper. He's very open to showcase his process on working with scrap and up-cycled materials, check here to see some awesome work Behn has been doing.
Composting + Gardening 🌱
I've already started burying a first few batches of Bokashi compost at the back of the land and I plan to continue doing so for the next few months, expanding to bigger areas.
I'd like to build a planter box at the designated plant area on the property and install an irrigation system, possibly hydroponics too if we can set it up? We’ll see.
Zen Cabin 🧘♀️
The Sunflower Lab land is shared with our good friend Sophia, a PHD student studying artificial intelligence at UC San Diego. Sophia has graciously offered much help to curate Sunflower Lab, and she aims to bring a little cabin on wheels as a space for personal retreat.
Sophia's original vision was to create a Zen Buddhist temple at Bombay Beach and establish some eastern cultural roots. After a few back and forth conversations, we've decided to team up and share our land for our collective dreams. The little zen cabin will be placed at the front of Sunflower Lab, primarily used as a personal retreat, we do also look forward to curate a little zen themed corner around where the cabin will be located and make it a cozy, mindful space for all…
Behn has been talking about wanting some goats for the back yard, we are not sure if we can set up comfortable situation for the goats given on our ambitious plan for the next 3 months, but it’s a maybe?
As mentioned above, Solarpunk isn’t just about sustainability, it’s a philosophical framework to build a more cooperative, fair society, a lot of it also lies in building egalitarian governance structures.
What does that really look like on the ground? Is there even a perfect answer to governance? Are there ‘Utopian’ societies that are absolutely fair? How can we move towards a governance framework that is better than the current status quo?
Maybe we’ll host more discussions and workshops for the duration of Mars College, maybe we’ll research more on communities that are actively looking into local-scale solutions, anyways… we’ll be updating as we go.
We're still about 3 months away and Mars College 2024 has yet to begin, there might be more content we can curate collectively. Maybe the current plan is too ambitious, or maybe we can have more awesome collaborators on the way to dream bigger, further, anyways… to be continued. 💪
Currently the 2 abandoned vintage trailers on this land both needs some decent fixing. There is a workshop area that is currently utilized as a storage space for raw materials. The current space provides some very basic infrastructure but none is useful long term without some serious improvement.
Here's a blueprint of how this land will be used for the Biennale show:
Here are some views of the insides of trailers and the front yard's current status:
My lovely partner Will has picked up the lead on strategizing repairs needed for this place, we've started with basic cleanings and ridding of things. For January, our main focus would be to make the pink trailer leveled, install new foundations and floors, fix up the outside fence and clean out the main space. If all goes well, we would continue to work on the inside of the trailer, including renovating the toilets and more.
We have made an effort to preserve and re-purpose as many materials as we can, there's some plans to continue repurposing all the abandoned broken machinery on the property.
To Be Continued…
I imagine Sunflower lab as the pirate ship in One Piece, it’s a Schelling Point for people to gather around to build Solarpunk experiments and dreams together. ☀️
Here’s a logo I made for Sunflower lab:
A current to-do list on our notion:
If you'd like to collaborate in any way, please join our discord from the button below to chat more~
If Agartha seems like there’s not much traction online, it’s because I have been digging on land and working with fences irl at the moment. Please understand, I have not yet forgotten about the project and I am continuing working on it. 🛠️🌱🪓⚙️💦
Thank you for reading and happy 2024!