Just as science fiction writers can anticipate inventions that haven’t yet entered the imaginings of engineers, so eco artists can introduce original concepts that may eventually serve practical needs. Such may be the case with Jae Rhim Lee.
Just as science fiction writers can anticipate inventions that haven’t yet entered the imaginings of engineers, so eco artists can introduce original concepts that may eventually serve practical needs. Such may be the case with Jae Rhim Lee. “Valuing Urine as a Useful Resource” was the headline that appeared on January 23, 2012. The article noted, “An experiment using the collected urine as a fertilizer, conducted by an agriculture honors student at the University of Western Sydney, found that even a relatively low application of urine meets the critical phosphorus requirements for a variety of plants including lettuce.”30
On that day, another article appeared that promised “Urine-powered cars, homes and personal electronic devices could be available in six months with new technology developed by scientists from Ohio University. Using a nickel-based electrode, the scientists can create large amounts of cheap hydrogen from urine that could be burned or used in fuel cells. “One cow can provide enough energy to supply hot water for 19 houses,” said Gerardine Botte, a professor at Ohio University developing the technology. “Soldiers in the field could carry their own fuel.”31
Jae Rhim Lee expanded the opportunities for problem-solving by assigning value to a substance that is considered a distasteful waste product. She accomplished this by conducting an experiment that provided evidence of its usefulness. Biological waste products are typically condemned as unsanitary, dangerous, damaging, disgusting, or disgraceful. Compare Lee’s manner of working with these substances to Hundertwasser, Potrc, or SUPERFLEX. What function does each artist assign to the waste product? How does the artist neutralize repulsion and/or elevate respect for this reviled substance?