30 May 2018
19:15  - 21:00

Hörsaal 101, Alte Universität, Rheinsprung 9

Gastvorlesung / Vortrag

Energies in the arts: Opening questions

Prof. Douglas Kahn (UNSW, Sydney)

The emergent field of energy humanities has focused almost exclusively on sources and systems of fuel and power generation, in particular, fossil fuels and their alternatives. In one of its earlier pronouncements Patricia Smith Yaeger noted that because such sources do not always speak forthrightly in literary texts there must be commitment to pursue them as the repressed, the left-unsaid of an energy unconscious. Those studying energies in the arts face a different problem: artists, musicians, dancers, poets, etc. have been more than willing to name energy and energies as key to what they do and, in fact, what they have done since the early twentieth century. Three decades ago a similar situation pertained to a different energy: sound. Artists have by necessity worked through both the said and unsaid energies that energy humanities attends to; however, artists work and have worked as well with every other possible energy. A pluralistic and disciplined notion of energies is needed, not only for an artists-centered scholarship; they are key to what we all must do to reach dynamic homeostasis with a finite planet. 

Douglas Kahn is an historian and theorist of the arts and Professor at the National Institute for Experimental Arts, UNSW Art & Design, University of New South Wales, Sydney. His books include Earth Sound Earth Signal: Energies and Earth Magnitude in the Arts(University of California Press, 2013) and Noise Water Meat: A History of Sound in the Arts (MIT Press, 1999), and has edited Energies in the Arts (MIT Press, forthcoming).

The lecture will be accompanied by a workshop with Douglas Kahn at the Critical Media Lab of the FNHW on Tuesday, May 29 all day long. For further information, please contact Dr. Shintaro Miyazaki at

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