Amongst the many blogs out there, one that is well worth visiting is John Thackara’s. John Thackara is the director of Doors of Perception, an organisation which sets new agendas for design, including sustainability. In his recent blog entitled ‘High entropy notions of quality’, he advocates the need for ‘a new aesthetics of sustainability’.
Our experience of the world is one where the massive amounts of energy that we use are disguised in the highly visual, slick and simultaneously confusing nature of our surroundings. He suggests an aesthetics that in some way unravels this, asking his reader to imagine an airport, ‘what might it mean to be aesthetically triggered to be aware of the amount of energy embodied in the artefacts, structures and processes that surrounded us in such places?’
This reminds me of a work called The Black Cat by German artist Dirk Fleischmann in which he locks all the electrical appliances in a domestic flat away in one room. Exhibited in 2005 at Ramm, an exhibition space in a private flat, in Frankfurt, the starting point for the work was that this household consumed the same amount of energy as Fleischmann was producing in another project my solar power plant.
You entered the flat in complete darkness, unsure of what is going on around you. The only light was leaking out from the seams of one shut door (the room usually used as the exhibition space). As you explored you realised that a mass of cables, which felt strange and bumpy underfoot were leading beneath this shut door. And as your eyes adjusted, you noticed cables handing down eerily from the middle of the ceiling in each room where the light fitting should be and from different places around the walls, all leading under the door. It soon became clear that all the appliances: TV, cooker, lights though still on and connected by these long cables to the electricity supply, were hidden and locked away, rendering the flat functionless.
By hiding all these things away, the presence of energy was revealed from its usual hiding place, the physical form of the electrical equipment and our habitual interaction with it, subsumed into its use value. The work made you aware of our completely unconscious and abstracted interaction with energy in daily life and the investigative process of experiencing the work made the massive amounts of energy that we do consume strangely tangible.