Dissertation Abstract

Components of Cultural Thermodynamics: Visual Understandings of Energy 

April 8, 2016

Society and culture along with the world at large, can be thought of as a thermodynamic system, where thermodynamics is synonymous with ontologies of energy in interactive states. Numerous visual artists have sought to present understandings of these energetic systems in varying ways.

Situating artworks within a field of intentions, where those intentions are to visually present understandings of energetic forces at work, whether in society and culture or the world at large, requires a contextual identification of artists to be considered, along with works which are exemplary in their approaches to presenting visual understandings of energetic activity or functionality. In choosing which artists to be a center of focus in this type of study, one is presented with almost limitless ways in which energetic forces may be visually modelled vis-à- vis creative works.

Theoretic aspects of the artworks in question must be identified as modellings (or direct appropriations of) of energetic forces at work and analyzed in terms of the way(s) that energetic activity may be modelled or mapped. Many avenues of inquiry spring to mind in relation to this proposition, especially when one considers the myriad forms of media and combinations thereof seen in contemporary culture.

My intention is to focus this inquiry on artists who work in more or less traditional mediums of visual art, namely drawing and painting. Initial choices include early abstract pioneer Frantisek Kupka who according to University of Ontario professor of Art History John G. Hatch, was concerned with wave patterns appearing in nature, and metaphysician and visual artist Emma Kunz, whose drawings in her own words depict energetic patterns in nature. These, along with a constellation of contemporary artists working in a more “visionary” or shamanic framework will be analyzed, along with correlations to modern scientific and more metaphysical or “para-scientific” theories and syntheses thereof, which seek to present understandings of human subtle energies and ways they are expressed visually in these contemporary works.

This research can ultimately fit within an overall extended field of research which seeks to understand creative works and the cultures they operate within, in terms of thermodynamics as defined above. The focus in this project is on ways that natural and human subtle energies can be understood through visual means, and grounding these understandings in contemporaneous theories which support their expressions.

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