Accepted Paper:

Energy and Aesthetic Experience: Engaging Communities of Despair  


Alex Wilkie (Goldsmiths, University of London)

Paper short abstract:

This paper reflects on a one-day engagement workshop with UK-based energy communities to examine the occasioning of novel aesthetic methodological techniques as a means to reformulate the ‘problem’ of energy-demand reduction practices as the ‘aesthetic experience’ of energy.

Paper long abstract:

As part of initiatives to achieve policy targets for energy-demand reduction, the UK government has pursued community-based interventions in order to develop instruments for stimulating the emergence of more responsible and informed energy publics. As part of this, the interdisciplinary 'Energy and Co-Designing Communities' project investigated the assumptions at play within the context of community-based energy-demand reduction efforts, not least around the notions of 'community' and 'practice' (e.g. Shove et al 2012) through novel methodological engagements. Drawing on the case of an 'Engagement Workshop' - where members from five UK-based energy communities were brought together to occasion experiences, views and understandings of community energy practices and environmental expectations - this paper reflects on how aesthetic methodological devices resourced approaches to researching community and public experience with technoscientific and catastrophic futures. The paper contributes to discussions on 'inventive' and 'speculative' methods and describes how visual workshop material occasioned the 'capture' of prehensive data, more specifically the 'aesthetic experience' of energy and community in the face of inescapable catastrophic expectations associated with climate change. The paper also contributes to discussion around the aesthetic dimensions of routine technoscientific practices by drawing on the work of Whitehead (cf. Kaplicky, 2011) and Shaviro and how such dimensions both shape energy-demand reduction practices and open up new speculative possibilities for understanding the aesthetic 'problem' of demand as a patterned contrast of danger and satisfaction. In conclusion, the paper reflects on the use of 'aesthetic' techniques to understand and come to terms with the aesthetic experience of inescapable dangers.

Panel T012
The Event of the Public: Convolutions of Aesthetic and Epistemic Practice