Banff Research in Culture: On Energy (June 2016)

Participating in this in June!


How do we make energy visible and what does it render possible? What are the limits of specific energy sources, like coal, oil, and solar? The 2016 Banff Research in Culture (BRiC) residency takes on the challenge of energy, its pasts, present, and futures. Artists and researchers will help redefine the impact of energy on society, and imagine new ways of representing and thinking about energy for the coming transition.


Our lives revolve around 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 creating in the fields of visual art, architecture, design, literature, humanities, social sciences, and physical sciences to consider energy; its conceptual, corporeal, and cultural development since its thermodynamic invention, and the sort of materialism that can emerge when energy is redefined in a postindustrial capitalist society. This residency asks artists and researchers to collectively address energy’s historical figures and futures; its visual and social 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 four weeks of intense workshops, discussion groups, studio time, and individual research, we will consider the cultural, political, and historical components of energy and explore new ways to artistically and conceptually figure energy in history. The collective aim of On Energy is to reimagine energy in the long view; to establish its current possibilities and limitations, and examine the social and physical forms energy might take in the future.  Participants are expected to arrive with interests and ideas particular to their own research and artistic practice around energy in its current or potential shape.

What does the program offer?

BRiC is a research and creation residency where academics and artists can carve out the time and space to further develop their ideas and projects within a supportive and rigorous community of diverse perspectives.  Discussions and seminars, reading groups, talks and presentations by faculty and participants, demonstrations in artistic production, and studio visits are all a part of this program.

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