detail, Thingness of Energy, 2012

February 2 through April 24, 2012
Sheila C. Johnson Design Center, northeast lobby
Parsons The New School for Design, 2 West 13th Street (off Fifth Avenue)


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 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.

compositeinstallation view
view project gallery here>>>

Energy materials and flows are often hidden in basements or invisibly channeled through pipes and wires. The Thingness of Energy is a provocation to consider and directly experience the material realities of the energy that fuels The New School and enables learning to occur here each day. 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, the Thingness of Energy presents new opportunities to engage several realities and open questions that are crucial to energy futures. These include:

Our daily lives depends upon 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 are dependent 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 heart, 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 projects, policy-making, and infrastructure design?


300+ million year old coal from Kayford Mountain, West Virginia (Kanawha Coal Field). Approximately 67% of The New School's energy is supplied by fossil fuels. From "Carbon Trading Across the Eons (Thingness of Energy), Jamie Kruse 2011-2012" (photo Elizabeth Ellsworth)

Carbon Trading Across the Eons (Thingness of Energy), Jamie Kruse 2011-2 (photo: CC Sebastian Stein)

Heating Oil No. 2, also known as red diesel, from 66 West 12th street. Approximately 150,000 gallons of No.2 oil were needed to heat New School buildings in 2010.
"From The Energy of Deep Time (Thingness of Energy), Jamie Kruse 2011-2" (photo Jamie Kruse)


The Thingness of Energy was researched and produced by artist Jamie Kruse (of smudge studio) in collaboration with The New School’s Office of Sustainability, Facilities Management; the Sheila C. Johnson Design Center; and the Vera List Center for Art and Politics under their two-year theme of "Thingness." The project was supported in part by The New School's Green Fund for 2012 and the Vera List Center for Art and Politics and sponsored by the Sheila C. Johnson Design Center. Vist the project page sponsored by the Vera List Center for Art and Politics.


Related Programming:

Thingness of Energy: New School Facilities Tour, February 23, 2012, documentation via the Vera List Center for Art and Politics.

Energy! A New School Moment, panel discussion, hosted by the Vera List Center March 5, 2012 (webpage and video documentation)

* Thingness of Energy was acquired by the New School Office of Sustainability in April 2012
Special thanks to the New School Facilities staff, Gwen Kilvert, Karen Bruce at ConEd, Erika Osborne, Josie Lawlor, and Cryovial®.
The ideas expressed and represented in this project are those of the artist, and do not necessarily reflect views of faculty, staff or students at The New School.


Related posts on Friends of the Pleistocene (FOP) fopnews.wordpress.com:

02.28.12 | "ENERGY! A New School Moment"

01.25.12 | "Thingness of Energy: Opening Reception"

01.05.12 | "The Power of Configuration: When Infrastructure Goes Off The Rails"

12.29.11 | "Transmission Power: Finding North in NYC's Electricity"

12.11.11 | "Flaring Up: Space Weather and Bulk Power Supply"

12.04.11 | "Geologic Heat: Following the Flow of Red Diesel"

110.4.11 | "Energy Shifts"

11.02.11 | "Thingness of Carbon: Burning Through the Eons"

10.31.11 | "Distributed Energy Things"

08.15.11 | "The Thingness of Energy"

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