Conference and Workshop organised by Folkestone Triennial 2017 artists Nomeda and Gediminas Urbonas

Sunday 3 September, 11am–6pm

Silver Screen Cinema, Cinema 2

Folkestone Town Hall, Guildhall Street, Folkestone CT20 1DY

Free. Booking required.  To book click here

Please note that this event is currently sold out. To join the waiting list please call Box Office on 01303 760750. 

Future Energy Summit brings together professionals and enthusiasts from the fields of art, design, life sciences and the humanities to re-imagine and re-script future models of energy, and its role and impact on citizenship and culture.

Future Energy Summit engages the emerging field of energy humanities, and the discourses of the future of energy and post-fossil fuel transition, to explore multidisciplinary approaches to energy, including non-human energy production by organisms such as bacteria or fungi, and the forms of energy in an expanded field, from psychotropic plant- or mushroom-induced altered states of mind to hybrid infrastructures

The ever-growing appetite for energy that leads to extreme fossil fuel extraction is being disrupted by a number of revolutionary processes, including the rapid transition to renewable energy, and the digitising and networking of energy production and distribution infrastructures. Massive consumption of energy, demand for new kinds of energy storage, and the development of smart grids are changing the way these networks operate. In this context of increasing demand and the ever-moving target of fossil fuel exhaustion, the future of energy is determined by our capacity to re-programme our energy dependencies.

In order to undo the way in which modernity has dictated energy provision, Future Energy Summit will emphasise two key perspectives: first, relearning the numerous ways that living organisms produce and store energy – for example, microbes producing energy when breaking down glucose with the help of enzymes, which occurs in both human and non-human bodies – and second, reconceptualising energy independence and energy grids by looking at ‘maker culture’-inspired production models. Testing these models is crucial to the future of the planet in our era of dramatic climate change because not only do they transcend the role of the passive consumer, they also create alliances and associations across disciplines, fields and ontologies. Future Energy Summit, joined by academics, artists, designers, makers and inventors, momentarily brackets the smart energy monoculture currently emanating from Silicon Valley and looks for productive fictions, prototypes and models that can imagine a new diversity of energy interdependencies.

According to Imre Szeman, one of the contributors to Future Energy Summit, the narrative of fossil fuel-based modernity is already a fiction that made the expansive use of energy invisible for the sake of exhausted models of ‘progress’ and ‘freedom’. Therefore, the key question raised on the occasion of this Summit is: how can we ‘rewrite’ these fictions, unearthing our relation to energy production processes that are already part of natural systems and reprogramming our relation to our own and other human and non-human bodies?

The invited participants of the Summit include prominent researchers and scholars from the fields of energy and science humanities, such as Jelena Martinovic, a historian of science, who will discuss energy, threat and adaptation strategies, by considering near-death experiences and their relevance in scientific and clinical research in the 19th and 20th centuries; Tere Vadén, a philosopher whose work inquires into the relationship between the humanities, energy and the project of modernity; and Imre Szeman, the author of Energy Humanities: An Anthology and a key figure in these debates. Artists and designers Cédric Carles and Thomas Ortiz of Paleo-Energetique, will discuss their energy archaeology project, amassing an archive of a multiplicity of energy production patents and inventions which have been previously neglected, censored or forgotten. Artist and researcher Rasa Smite (a collaborator with Raitis Smits and RIXC in Riga, Latvia) will introduce the Renewable Network approach of artists in building a ‘techno-ecological’ perspective, and will demonstrate the findings of RIXC’s Biotricity research. Also, discussing the sonic expressions of ‘Pond Battery’, an instrument that is fuelled by bacteria living in mud, Rasa will give a hands-on workshop on how to make your own mud battery. Stephanie Karpetas, a social entrepreneur and activist, will share her expertise and experience of engaging communities to be part of a local energy revolution, helping people take ownership and control of their own local energy generation, distribution and use. New materiality in battery production will be discussed by Viktorija Makarovaite and Sofia Perez-Villar, research scientists at University of Kent and scientific advisors for the mushroom batteries deployed at the Folke Stone Power Plant, a work commissioned from Nomeda and Gediminas Urbonas for Folkestone Triennial 2017.

Future Energy Summit is brought together by A_Zooetics, a research platform exploring human, non-human and poetic knowledge spheres in order to imagine new prototypes and interfaces for future interspecies ecologies.

Future Energy Summit is part of Folkestone Triennial 2017, and is supported by the Lithuanian Council for Culture, the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Lithuania, the MIT School of Architecture and Planning Associate Provost Philip S. Khoury and Arts at MIT. A_Zooetics is an Outreach and Education Programme of Frontiers in Retreat, a network supported by the EU ‘Culture’ Programme (EACEA 2013-1297). This communication reflects the views only of the authors, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use of the information contained herein.

For further information, visit www.zooetics.net

Facebook: www.facebook.com/Zooetics

Vimeo: www.vimeo.com/Zooetics

Twitter: www.twitter.com/Zooetics


Future Energy Summit Speaker Bios:

Cédric Carles is a designer and founder of ItexAder, Atelier2ce, and recently Atelier21, a think tank developing a number of projects in the field of energy research based on collaborative and citizen initiatives. In 1999, Cedric started the SolarSoundSystem experiment, a 100% energy autonomous DJ booth that proposed a unique way of addressing the contemporary issues of energy resources. It is now a European network with antennas in Paris, Marseille, Berlin and Tel Aviv, among other locations. In 2015, Cedric launched the Paleo-Energy project, a research-based, knowledge-sharing model which integrates the scientific community and crowd-sourcing: a hands-on and open resource for previously neglected social and technical, energy-related inventions. http://www.paleo-energetique.org

Stephanie Karpetas is the founder and director of Sustainability Connections CIC and director of Orchard Community Energy – Kent’s first large-scale community-owned solar farm. She specialises in project design and delivery, community engagement, training and facilitation. Stephanie brings over 20 years’ experience in the field of sustainability management. Among other things, she held a position as Environment Manager at British Airways, and has been working with SMEs, charities, social enterprises, business support organisations and local governments. http://orchard.coop/people/stephanie-karpetas/

Viktorija Makarovaitė is an engineer and microbiologist specialising in mycology; a PhD researcher at the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (ESPRC), School of Biosciences, and School of Engineering and Digital Arts at the University of Kent, Canterbury; and is a member of the Kent Fungal Group. Viktorija’s research project concerns development of RFID biosensors for the detection of fungal infections. This research aims to improve early detection of fungal colonisation and biofilm formation on implanted medical devices. http://www.kentfungalgroup.com/dr-campbell-gourlay

Jelena Martinovic is a post-doctoral fellow at Institute of Advanced Studies, University College London, and an associate researcher at the Institute of the History of Medicine and Public Health in Lausanne, Switzerland. Prior to that, she was a research fellow at Harvard University in the Department of the History of Science, and a Swiss National Science Foundation senior researcher at HEAD-Geneva. She has taught at HEAD-Geneva, the University of Lausanne, and the University of Art and Industrial Design in Linz. Her first monograph, Near-death Experience: How Psychiatry Turned a Folk Phenomenon into Therapeutic Insight, has just been published in French by MetisPresses. Her current research deals with the history of psychedelics, visuality and theory of creativity. http://metispresses.ch/shop/mort-imminente/

Thomas Ortiz is an artist, designer, engineer and member of the research council of the Paleo-Energy project. Passionate about the issues concerning energy and upcycling, in 2014 he created Matabase, a start-up providing solutions for students and creative professionals to simplify the access to innovative materials. He is also a member of the Atelier21 think tank, working as a project manager on both Atelier21 and SolarSoundSystem projects. As a member of the Paleo-Energy research team, he developed the RegenBox project – the first open-source alkaline regenerator. http://www.paleo-energetique.org

Sofia Perez-Villar is a researcher and material chemist with over seven years’ experience in renewable energy. She has been working on the development of new batteries, utilising cost-efficient choices and materials to reduce the emissions of hazardous gases into the environment. Sofia is currently a post-doctoral researcher at the School of Physical Sciences, University of Kent, working on the improvement of new electrode materials for Grid Energy Storage Systems, such as rechargeable sodium (Na)-ion batteries. The aim of this research is the development of an easy and low-cost synthesis of graphene-related materials as anodes in order to increase performance and efficiency of advanced batteries. https://www.kent.ac.uk/physical-sciences/staff/

Rasa Smite is an artist, curator and researcher, working in the intersection of art, science and innovative technologies. She is co-founder of RIXC, The Center for New Media Culture, in Riga, Latvia; editor-in-chief of Acoustic Space, a peer-reviewed journal and book series; and organiser of annual RIXC Art Science festivals in Riga. Rasa holds a doctoral degree and is a professor at Liepaja University, Latvia. She also co-founded Renewable Network, a Baltic-Nordic initiative that unites artists and scientists who are engaged with sustainability. In her joint artistic practice with Raitis Smits she works with a ‘techno-ecological’ approach. Their recent artworks include: Talk to Me, a human-plant communication project, and Biotricity, a series of art experiments with an innovative bacteria battery technology (MFC – microbial fuel cell). http://renewable.rixc.lv

Imre Szeman is Professor of English Language and Literature in the Department of Drama and Speech Communication, University of Waterloo, Canada. He conducts research and teaches in the areas of energy and environmental studies, critical and cultural theory, and social and political philosophy. His work focuses on the social and cultural changes necessary to enable energy transition: the transition from the current dominant form of energy – oil – to other energy systems. Recent books include Fueling Culture: 101 Words for Energy and Environment (Fordham UP, 2017; co-editor), Energy Humanities: A Reader (Johns Hopkins UP, 2017; co-editor) and Petrocultures: Oil, Politics, Culture (McGill-Queen’s UP, 2017; co-editor). He is currently completing work on On Petrocultures: Globalization, Culture, Energy: Selected Essays, 2001-2017, a collection of his recent writing on energy. http://www.crcculturalstudies.ca/

Viktorija Šiaulytė is an independent curator and producer working within the fields of contemporary art, architecture and film. Since 2013 she is a researcher and coordinator for the project Zooetics, organized by Jutempus Interdisciplinary Art Program in Vilnius, Lithuania. She is an ongoing collaborator with the Architecture Fund in Vilnius, Lithuania, co-editing its publication series ‘Architecture [Publication] Fund’. Together with filmmakers Marta Dauliute and Elisabeth Marjanović Cronvall she co-founded Last Project, a platform for new ways of working with audience engagement through long-term collaborative productions. http://www.zooetics.net

Nomeda & Gediminas Urbonas are artists, educators and co-founders of the Urbonas Studio, an interdisciplinary research practice that facilitates exchange among diverse nodes of knowledge production and artistic practice in pursuit of projects that transform civic spaces and collective imaginaries. In collaboration with experts from different cultural and professional fields, these projects develop practice-based research models, merging a variety of materials and techniques from new media, urbanism, social science and ecology. Gediminas is Associate Professor and Director at the MIT Program in Art, Culture and Technology in the School of Architecture and Planning. Nomeda is an MIT research affiliate and PhD researcher at the NTNU – the Norwegian University for Science and Technology.


Tere Vadén is a philosopher working with the multidisciplinary research unit Bios.fi that focuses on anticipation of socio-ecological transformations. His publications include Rock the Boat. Localized Ethics, the Situated Self, and Particularism in Contemporary Art (2003), Heidegger, Zizek and Revolution (2014) and Artistic Research Methods (2014). Lately, he has been obsessed with the question of fossil fuels, co-authoring Energy and Experience (2015: http://www.mcmprime.com/books/energy-and-experience-an-essay-in-nafthology). The book unearths the blind spot that energy has occupied in the social thought of modernity, a modernity that has been self-deluded by its intellectual capacities to render human beings independent from nature. http://bios.fi/eng


Future Energy Summit Project Abstracts:

Paleo-Energy: A Counter-History of Energy – Cédric Carles (designer and researcher, founder of ItexAder, Atelier2ce and Atelier21, France) and Thomas Ortiz (artist and engineer, Paleo-Energy Project, France)

Paleo-Energy project is a new research-based, knowledge-sharing model that integrates the scientific community and crowd-sourcing: a hands-on and open resource for social and technical inventions related to energy, transportation, heating and electricity production.

The history of energy is neither linear nor Darwinian. It is replete with fantastic forgotten innovations that never became widespread in their eras – it is these innovations that Paleo-Energy will explore. In the Netherlands, an experiment in electric car-sharing was introduced in 1974. At the same time, a ‘Vélibs’ public bicycle-sharing scheme was in operation in La Rochelle. In 1979, educator Jean-Luc Perrier built a car that ran on hydrogen, generated by solar power, and emitted only steam. The first solar thermal concentrators, which were designed by teacher Augustin Mouchot, were unveiled at the World’s Fair in Paris in 1878. This revisionist history seeks to understand and examine the contexts that enabled – or hindered – the popularisation and success of certain energy innovations. What situations fostered the emergence of these innovations? Might recessions encourage new opportunities for creativity today?


People Powered – Stephanie Karpetas (founder of Sustainability Connections and local resident of Folkestone, UK)

As we discover more and more renewable energy sources and move away from fossil fuels, the opportunity also arises for ordinary people to gain ownership and control of energy. Stephanie will talk about how this people-powered energy revolution is taking root in Kent and how the Future Energy Summit may accelerate and energise a move towards greater change.


The Green Future of Batteries: Smart Storage – Sofia Perez-Villar (researcher, School of Physical Sciences, University of Kent, UK) and Viktorija Makarovaitė (researcher, School of Biosciences and School of Engineering and Digital Arts, University of Kent, UK)

Carbon emissions have risen so dramatically only because of the commensurate growth of global energy consumption. In order to meet this demand, there is a critical need for both clean and efficacious energy storage devices. Sofia and Viktorija will describe the operating principles and lasting issues of Li-ion battery technology and the hurdles required to be solved before green electrochemical storage becomes a widespread reality in the market. The design of sustainable battery systems, through the choice of both raw materials in abundance and electrode recycling, are essential for the next generation of batteries. One promising technology is a battery made of mushroom tissue which may outperform graphene-based batteries. The highly microporous mushroom structures and the minimal electrode processing transform the conventional Li-ion battery into a low-cost and environmentally friendly system with comparable capacities. One such mushroom battery was implemented in the Folke Stone Power Plant. In our journey to a more sustainable future, organic biomass electrodes will provide an easily renewable source for new forms of energy storage.


From Excitation to Exhaustion, and Beyond. Reconsidering Near-Death Experiences – Jelena Martinovic (researcher, Institute of Advanced Studies, University College London, UK)

Jelena will address the question of energy from a history of science and medicine perspective that goes back to the 19th century, considering near-death experiences. She will discuss how positive psychology concepts relate to physiology – defence mechanisms, animals and organisms reacting to stress, their strategies of adaptation, learning and ways of regulating energy. This gives an opportunity to unfold Sigmund Freud’s approach on how organisms regulate external input and energy. On the other hand, it stretches out the strange story of how dying processes were turned (by medical practitioners in the 1970s) into both a slow-motion version of a fight-or-flight response and a transcendental experience.


Renewable Futures. Artists and Scientists Joining Forces in Building Techno-Ecological Perspective – Rasa Smite (associate professor, New Media Art Programme, Liepaja University, Latvia and founder of RIXC – Center for New Media Culture, Latvia)

Rasa will talk about her practice and engagement with Renewable Network, founded by artists associated with RIXC. Renewable Network experiments with infinite and vast energy sources: making solar cells from chokeberry juice, transforming electromagnetic pollution in urban environments into low-power batteries, or building next generation bio-energy devices that generate power with the help of bacteria.

One of the recent techno-ecological art projects developed in the framework of Renewable Network is Biotricity. Its particular focus is on wetland areas: swamps and marshlands that contain unexploited resources, and are havens for biological diversity. MFC (microbial fuel cell) ‘power plants’, installed in different sites, trace the ordinarily invisible activities in nature, such as bacteria life processes in the bottom of ponds, swamps, lakes or fjords. Live web-cam images and continuous measurements of bacteria electricity fluctuations from these sites are presented live on the internet, while collected data from these long-time observations are transformed into live sound structures and video, 3D data sculptures and VR environments, creating new aesthetics as well as sensual and emotional experiences – a poetics of green energy.


What is a Petroculture? Conjectures on Energy and Global Culture – Imre Szeman (researcher, Department of Drama and Speech Communication, University of Waterloo, Canada)

How might one begin to use energy as a critical component of cultural and literary analysis? Does making a link between a specific energy system and a previously defined literary or cultural period, movement or form open up a new way of analysing literary texts and cultural forms? One of the most important reasons for reading energy into literature and culture is to provide us with critical and political resources we might otherwise lack. While the energy humanities have insisted that we imagine modernity as an era deeply shaped in relation to fossil fuels, the outcome of this energy periodisation is different than we might think. Imre Szeman argues that it is only the first step in grappling with how energy has shaped all the capacities, beliefs and practices of capitalist modernity. Our imagining of future energy systems demands that we first fully understand the petrocultures we have created and in which we now live.


Anthropocene, Capitalocene, Nafthocene – How to Think about That which is Ending and That which is Beginning – Tere Vadén (researcher, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Tampere, Finland and BIOS Research Unit)

More than half of all oil consumed in human history has been used in the period of time from 1980 to now, an energy expenditure of a bigger magnitude than all previous centuries combined. Energy inputs are different than social, cognitive, economic or spiritual ones. First, without surplus energy, neither the world economy nor population would have grown as they have. Second, fossil fuels are not created by humans. Third, fossil fuels are non-renewable. Thus, non-human materials are responsible for global growth, and this growth is likely to be a one-off occurrence.

‘Anthropocene’ research focuses on how human activity is detected in geological strata. ‘Capitalocene’ suggests that decisions over material activity are within a class-based social structure. ‘Nafthocene’ highlights that both anthropocene and capitalocene are based on the work done by burning fossil fuels. In this sense, both are part of the characteristic modern blindness towards the conditions of modernity’s existence. Modernity sees in itself a victory over nature which was only made possible by a natural phenomenon: the existence of hydrocarbons in the Earth’s crust. This irony defines nafthism.





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