Jamie Kruse: Thingness of Energy

2012 Sheila C. Johnson Design Center, lobby
Parsons The New School for Design
2 West 13th Street (off Fifth Avenue)
Exhibition hours: Monday through Friday, 10:00 a.m.—6:00 p.m.
Saturday and Sunday, 12:00—6:00 p.m.

Exhibition reception
Thursday, February 2, 2012, 6:30—9:00 p.m.

Thingness of Energy is a mixed media art installation by Jamie Kruse, presented by the Vera List Center for Art and Politics in the lobby of the Sheila C. Johnson Design Center, a glass-enclosed gallery opening onto Fifth Avenue. It serves as the physical and virtual hub for long-term discussions as well as temporary interactions, events and happenings on The New School's energy use and its economic, environmental, ethical, urban and artistic implications.

With unprecedented access to the university's infrastructure and support staff, Kruse has spent six months investigating the flow of energy through various New School buildings. The outcome of her research is a complex, intricate and fragile assemblage of the physical components of energy. The installation is made up of the material conduits of energy – the pipes, wires, switch boxes and tubes through which it flows – as well as samples of some of the energy sources themselves (fossil fuels and coal) in addition to maps and photographs. Mounted on the building's membrane, i.e. its windows, the installation is visible from both the street and the building's interior underscoring the correlation between producer of energy – the outside – to consumer of energy – the people in the building.

Energy materials and flows are often hidden in basements or invisibly channeled through pipes and wires. Thingness of Energy is a provocation to consider and directly experience the material realities of energy. Taking The New School's Climate Action Plan as its point of departure, the project reveals the deep geologic nature and effects of the materials we use to generate and transmit energy. And it underscores the power of deep time – both past and future – as a generator of energy forms and effects.

By bringing into view things of energy that exist both within the walls of The New School and arrive here from far beyond the borders of New York State, Thingness of Energy presents new opportunities to engage several spatial and temporal realities and open questions that are crucial to energy futures. In the artist's words:

"Much of our daily lives depends on geologic materials that took millennia to form. We generate the massive quantities of heat and light that we use day after day out of the transformed remains of plants and animals that lived millions of years ago. These "fossil fuels" will not form again within a timeframe that holds any practical meaning for us as human beings. How might these realities be more effectively communicated to contemporary humans?"

"Humans rarely examine the unimaginably long-term geologic effects that we set into motion when we interact with energy materials. These include irrevocable rearrangements of landscape and biosphere. How might we better grasp the scale of our actions' impacts?"

"Energy production and transmission infrastructures are vulnerable to forces of change that are often unpredictable and sometimes geologic in scale. Given that our lifestyles depend upon stable and consistent energy supplies, how might we design the where's, how's, and material compositions of energy infrastructures so that they flex and reconfigure in response to change?

At its core, Thingness of Energy poses the question: what if "anticipating geologic scales of force, change, and effect" became a common design specification for energy production and distribution, policy-making, and infrastructure design?

The presentation is accompanied by several public programs, among them an installation walkthrough and facilities tour on Thursday, February 23, 12:30 p.m. (RSVP required: vlc@newschool.edu) and an energy-driven exchange among New School faculty members from different programs, on Monday, March 5, 6:30 p.m.

Jamie Kruse is an artist, designer and independent scholar. In 2006 she co-founded (with Elizabeth Ellsworth) smudge studio, based in Red Hook, Brooklyn. Recent projects include Geologic City: A Field Guide to the GeoArchitecture of New York. Exhibitions have been presented at the Storefront for Art and Architecture, New York, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Incident Report, Hudson, New York. Kruse has presented her work at Parsons The New School for Design, the Center for Land Use Interpretation (CLUI), Los Angeles, the Oslo School of Architecture and Design, Norway, the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, Madrid, Spain, and the California College of Arts. She has been granted residencies with the Center for Land Use Interpretation, Wendover, UT; Sundance Preserve; the Center for Art + Environment, Nevada Museum of Art; and the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council. Kruse is the author of the Friends of the Pleistocene blog. With Elizabeth Ellsworth, she is currently co-editing a collection of essays entitled "Making the Geologic Now." Smudge studio is currently represented in a solo show, In the Interest of Time, at the Brazos Gallery, Richland College, Dallas, TX.

Thingness of Energy is an art project by Jamie Kruse, developed and produced in collaboration with The New School's Office for Sustainability, the Sheila C. Johnson Design Center, and the Vera List Center for Art and Politics. The project is supported, in part, by The New School's Green Fund and the Vera List Center for Art and Politics.

Presented on occasion of the Vera List Center's 2011-2013 focus theme "Thingness."