Energies in the Arts by Douglas Kahn
The MIT Press
Hmm, “energy”. . . the good ole indestructible conserved quantity that is convertible in form and can be transferred to an object in order to get work done. Douglas Kahn’s book explores that inhabit whatever is part of or expressed within the confines of the arts.
Now, claiming that this is a wide and multidisciplinary field is an understatement as the research casts its web ranging from anthropological concepts via the energies expressed through material manifestations via phenomena like sound. Each domain is illuminated and substantiated by essays of discipline leaders, the essence of which each add a facet to a whole that is much bigger than the sum of the parts this tome can contribute.
Kahn’s achievement lies in not only questioning the concept and core definition of energy by taking a more expansive view on it, but also view it from different historical angles that provide an intriguing perspective on the emergence of what eventually became schools of thought and art.
A particularly interesting field that is shed light on is photography and the capturing of energetic processes as well as innovations in the realms of electricity and electromagnetism that opened new possibilities and revolutionised the world of the arts.
Another one is spirituality and cultural exchange as well as the overlapping between music, spirituality and science and, most interestingly, the energy of actual reactions to the arts and the ramifications in terms of inspirations, critics, rumours and so forth.
It is fascinating how each extract serves as fertile ground not only on what energies are created but the how and the effect it has, which more often than not creates a perpetuum mobile.
The book itself becomes a very energetic medium that can be used as a tool to motivate and inspire more energetic acts that can be of artistic nature but do not necessarily have to be.