The Aesthetics of Energy
Susanne Strätling, Free U, Berlin
Two basic assumptions:
1. Energy, resources, and the environment
are not only relevant from an economic,
political, environmental, or sociological
point of view. They can also be regarded
from a genuinely aesthetic perspective.
2. Energy not only exists as thermal energy
or electrical energy or kinetic energy. It
also exists as aesthetic energy.
Three basic levels
1. thematic level: energy/resource/environment
as a motif, a theme, an element with
symbolic significance of an aesthetic object
1. material level: energy/resource as material
carrier of an aesthetic object
1. structural level: energy as fundamental
concept of an aesthetic object
László Moholy-Nagy: Light-Space-Modulator (1922)
„Vital constructivity is the embodiment of life and the principle of all
human and cosmic development.
Translated into art today, this means the activation of space by means
of dynamic-constructive systems of forces, that is, construction of
forces within one another that are actually at tension in physical space
and their construction within space, also active as force (tension). [...]
We must therefore replace the static principle of classical art with the
dynamic principle of universal life. Stated practically: Instead of static
material construction (material and form relations), dynamic
construction (vital construction and force relations) must be evolved in
which the material is only the carrier of forces.
Carrying further the unit of construction, a DYNAMIC-CONSTRUCTIVE
SYSTEM OF FORCES is attained whereby man, hitherto merely
receptive in his observations of works of art, experiences a heightening
of his own faculties, and becomes himself an active partner with the
forces unfolding themselves.“
László Moholy-Nagy and Alfréd Kemény,
Dynamic-constructive Systems of Forces (1922)
„There has never been an important period
of art in which the object would not have
been distorted for the sake of the external
energy of expression.“
Lyubov‘ Popova (1920)
Kandinsky: From Point and Line to Plane (1926)
Kandinsky: From Point and Line to Plane (1926)
Electricity graph
Lines of flash of lightning
„The geometric line is an invisible thing. It is the track [Spur] made by
the moving point; that is, its product. It is created by movement —
specifically through the destruction of the intense self-contained
repose of the point. Here, the leap out of the static into the dynamic
occurs. [...]
The forces [Kräfte] coming from without which transform the point
into a line, can be very diverse. The variation in lines depends upon the
number of these forces and upon their combinations.
In the final analysis, all line forms can be reduced to two cases:
1. application of one force and
2. application of two forces:
a) single or repeated, alternate action of both forces,
b) simultaneous action of both forces.
Quite apart from differences in character which are determined by the
inner tensions, and quite apart from their processes of creation, the
original source of every line remains the same — the force.“
Kandinsky, From Point and Line to Plane (1926)
Kandinsky: From Point and Line to Plane (1926)
Obmochu exhibition, Moscow 1921
Lyubov‘ Popova: Spatial Force Construction (1920-21)
“Construction in painting = the sum of the
energy of the parts.”
“The line as contour and trace of a
transversal plane participates in the forces
of the construction and governs these.”
Lyubov‘ Popova (1921)
„Instead of using a paintbrush to make his art, Robert
Morris would like to use a bulldozer.“
(Robert Smithson, 1967)
„I am for an art that is political-erotical-mystical, that
does something other than sit on its ass in a museum“
(Claes Oldenburg, 1961)
„What art now has in its hand is a mutable stuff which
need not arrive at a point of being finalized with respect
to time or space. The notion that work is an irreversible
process ending in a static icon-object no longer has much
(Robert Morris, 1967)
Nikolay Polissky: Hay Tower (2000)
Nikolay Polissky: Volcano (2009)
Yuri Al‘bert: From the cycle My favourite books (2001)
Left: Ivan Goncharov Oblomov; middle: Rainer Maria Rilke Letters on Cézanne; right: Aleksandr Pushkin Eugene Onegin
Yuri Al‘bert: Jars with Ash for Pictures from the cycle My Favourite Books (2001)
„I have always liked monochrome abstract art, it is
indeterminate, unverbalized, unaggressive yet exerts such
powerful effect on the viewer, and have always been
disappointed that this important tradition is absent in
Russian art, a tradition that is a norm in the art of other
countries. [...] Maybe it is specifically this tension
between the seemingly calm and all-reconciling form and
the underlying passion of the artist that appeal to us. [...]
Therefore, all three series shown at the exhibition: “My
favorite books” (painted with the ashes of burnt books),
and also pictures painted with my own blood and
excrements, can be regarded as an attempt to determine
what painting is made of [...].“
Yuri Al‘bert
Performance is a mental and physical construction that I step into,
in front of an audience. And then the performance actually
happens, it’s based on energy values. It is very important that a
public is present; I couldn’t do it privately; that wouldn’t be
performance. Nor would I have the energy. For me it is crucial that
the energy actually comes from the audience and translates
through me – I filter it and let it go back to the audience. [...]
It’s all about energy. You go through a purification, you elevate your
consciousness, and that really affects the audience. [...] So what is
a good work of art? It has that energy that tunes you into what is
going on behind your back. Bruce Nauman always likes to say‚ „Art
is a matter of life and death.“ It sounds melodramatic, but it is so
true. If you take whatever you do as a matter of life and death, and
if you are there one hunded percent, then things really happen.
Less then one hundred percent is not good art.
Marina Abramović : On Performance Art (2012)
Marina Abramović : Rhythm 0 (1974)
Marina Abramović : Rhythm 0 (1974)
Five Conceptual Aspects
1. Form/Matter: Energy as force of form
2. Transformation: An aesthetics of energy treats
form in terms of transformation.
3. Dynamics: An aesthetics of energy stresses the
dynamic potential of a work of art
4. Life: Energy as dynamic-aesthetic force
crosses the border between art and life
5. Technics/Science/Nature: An aesthetics of
energy bridges the gap between
technofetishism and bio art
Material for group work
Look! I stand among them: machines, hammers, furnaces and forges and among hundreds of comrades.
Above is iron-forged space.
Along the sides run girders and angle bars. They rise twenty meters.
They bend right and left.
They are joined together by trusses in the cupolas and, like the shoulders of a giant, support the entire
iron building. They are impetuous; they are bold; they are strong. They demand even greater strength.
I look at them and stand up straight. Into my veins flows new iron blood. I have grown still higher. I
myself grow steel shoulders and arms immeasurably strong.
I have merged with the building's iron. I have risen. My shoulders force out trusses, upper girders, roof.
My feet are still on the earth, but my head is above the building. I still gasp for breath from these
inhuman efforts, but already shout: "Let me speak, comrades, let me speak!“
The iron echo covers my words; the entire building vibrates with impatience.
And I have risen still higher, I am already on a level with the chimneys. Neither story nore speech, but
only one iron word I'll shout: "We shall be victorious!“
Aleksej Gastev: We Grow Out of Iron (1914)
László Moholy-Nagy: Diagram of Forces (1939)
Collective Actions: The Lamp (1977)
On a hill near Zagorsk in the twilight an electrical street-lamp was strung up between treetops, its sides covered with
purple glimmer. Underneath it had a red balloon, serving as sail. The whole construction revolved and swung in the
wind. Purple flashes of various intensity and timing could be seen from a distance up to two kilometers. There were
no other light sources within eyesight.
Erik Bulatov: I live, I see (1988)
Marina Abramović : Rhythm 5 (1974)
Vladimir Maslov/Yevgeny Yufit: Silver Heads (1999)
Pavel Filonov GOELRO. Lenin and Electrification (1931)
Poster Art on Electrification (1920s)
Pussy Riot (?): Oil Cycle (release July 16, 2013)
„Federal Penitentiary Service, Interior Ministry, Emergency Situations Ministry, and Rosnano,
LUKoil, TNK, Rosneft, and Gazprom, ...
Evildoers at the oil towers,
Oil on the tables,
Sechin with crocodiles,
Like in a red prison.“

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