Imre Szeman

Banff Research in Culture 2016

On Energy

Program dates: May 30-June 24, 2016

Program Director (2016): Jeff Diamanti

Faculty: Keller Easterling , Matthew Huber and artists (Heather) Ackroyd and (Dan) Harvey

We never stop using energy. From driving our cars—or bikes—to work, to eating food and heating our homes, energy in some form or another conditions the quotidian at every scale. Energy grounds the daily, the quarterly, the annual, and the epochal. Futures trading in New York and Chicago makes the extremes of weather a fiscal crisis for working families hard pressed to pay their utilities, while the growth rate of nations bends to the capacities and supply of domestic and international energy markets. Since the industrial revolution, our lives have been fueled by the social and physical energy available from coal, oil, and natural gas. No longer dependent on the rhythms and limits of organic energy, such as wood, water, and animal power, fossil fuels have simultaneously made the modern, globalized economy possible, and redefined the social history of energy in the meantime. What Leibniz called the living force has become, since the systematic mechanization of fossil fuels in the 19th century, the fundamental force of modern history.

“On Energy” invites participants from the fine arts, humanities, social sciences, and physical sciences to consider the historical specificity of energy, its conceptual development since its thermodynamic invention, and the sort of materialism that emerges when energy is redefined as both the ground and figure of industrial and postindustrial capitalism. This research retreat asks artists and researchers to collectively address energy’s figures, its visual economy, and its capacity to disfigure, since energy is not a thing, but rather a representation of the force embedded in matter and the relations between materials, Over three weeks of workshops, studio, and individual study, “On Energy” gives researchers and artists the opportunity to think intensively about the social, cultural, political, and historical components of energy’s conceptual development. This means finding new ways to artistically and conceptually figure energy in and as history, as well as giving specificity to the social forms energy might ground in the future tense. While participants are expected to arrive with interests and ideas particular to their own research, the collective aim of “On Energy” is to reimagine energy in the long view, and to establish the possibilities and limitations of a social theory of energy.

Energy typically invokes a sense of future possibility, of capacity in reserve, of vitality. What the twilight of oil has made stark, however, is that energy also names exhaustion, depletion, and blockage. Now is the moment for us to investigate energy conceptually and imaginatively so that we might begin to grapple fully with the multiple ways in which it has shaped us in the past and might come to shape us in the future.

Application Deadline: December 16, 2020

Application information available at The Banff Centre

Banff Research in Culture

Banff Research in Culture (BRiC) is a research residency program designed for scholars engaged in advanced theoretical research on themes and topics in culture. BRiC is designed to offer researchers with similar interests from different disciplinary and professional backgrounds an opportunity to exchange opinions and ideas. Participants are encouraged to develop new research, artistic, editorial, and authorial projects, both individually and in connection with others.

During the residency, participants will attend lectures, seminars, and workshops offered by visiting faculty from around the world. The residency will help to develop new approaches toward the study and analysis of culture, as well as creating lasting networks of scholars who might use this opportunity as the basis for future collaborative work.

The Banff Centre is a world-renowned facility supporting the creation and performance of new works of visual art, music, dance, theatre, and writing.

BRiC is funded by The Banff Centre, Canada Research Chair in Cultural Studies, Faculty of Arts, University of Alberta and the Office of the Vice-President (Research), University of Alberta.