Douglas Kahn – Energies in the Arts


MIT Press, ISBN-13: 978-0262039383, English, 480 pages, 2019, USA

In this new anthology for MIT Press, Kahn reveals an ambition to do something similar for the energetic as he did for the field of audio culture with the publication of Noise Water Meat in 2001. Energies in the Arts points the reader’s attention towards an as yet underexplored and unsynthesised field of study – energy in all its forms as it manifests through artistic practices. Contributions include discussions of electromagnetism as art; photographic techniques as a way of utilising light energy and capturing depictions of organic energy; kinetic energy; and performance. Unlike audio culture, which includes a concrete set of practices involving sound art, performance and music, the ‘indefinition’ of energy put forward here includes discussions of sonic, electrical, electromagnetic, thermodynamic, entropic, ecological and even social energies such as gossip into the discussion, grapples with two centuries of practice and a variety of western and non-western cultures. If the topic is sometimes too broad to hold together, it nonetheless provides a lens for underexplored practices and connections between art and science throughout the 20th century, including Daniela Silvestrin’s work on Mario de Vega, Susan Ballard on Joan Brassil and Douglas Kahn writing of the energy field performances of Peter Blomey to mention a few.