The afternoon of September 12th was one of shifting currents of thought and energy. In the gallery there was a steady movement of people looking at Beuys.

One couple had returned following an earlier visit and had brought friends back to show them the exhibition, even though they felt they didn’t really like it and thought it didn’t belong in the De La Warr Pavilion. They led me round the exhibition asking animated questions and demonstrated a deep fascination with Beuys’ choice of materials and sculptural arrangements.

The Fat Chair provoked quite a bit of discussion, which led onto talking about how art can be made out of anything and that rubbish can be recycled into artefacts.

I really enjoyed talking to them because they had what I can see, upon reflection, was a kind of constructive resistance to the work that allowed them to question, doubt and be opened up to possibilities of understanding.

After experiencing the Speaker’s Corner discussion all about energy led by Steve Martin, physics teacher, I could describe their engagement with the exhibition as manifestations of kinetic, potential and elastic energy:

They moved enthusiastically from work to work, with an attitude of boundless enquiry bursting through a thin veneer of mocking deprecation of Beuys. This was their kinetic force.

They were keen to have their minds opened and find out more, I felt we could have talked all day. This was the potential energy they exhibited.

And they were willing for their minds to roam, for us all to take part in a spirited and lively conversation that took us in many directions. And in this way they showed what elastic, mind-energy can be like. (I apologise to Steve for stretching an interpretation of his explanation of the forms of energy to its limits.)

Steve’s talk was well attended by up to 25 people. He was very energetic in his demonstration of seven types of energy: kinetic, potential, thermal, gravitational, sound, light and elastic, using an elastic band as a prop. He communicated his enthusiasm for his subject very well to the gathered group.

His basic thesis was that the universe, having been created by a big bang was full of energy and that energy cannot run out, it can only be transferred. Therefore, on the one hand, there is nothing to worry about in terms of an energy crisis because energy is readily available everywhere if we only harness it sensibly. On the other hand, however, humans are constantly showing how wasteful we are of energy and seem incapable at the moment of properly investigating and implementing sustainable forms of energy.

The discussion turned around ideas of how to plan more constructively

for our future energy use and despair at how we, as humans, let greed and profit motivate us in the short term instead of acting sensibly in the present to conserve our future energy needs.

There was a sense in the group of shared interests and some irritation at the actions of others. We formed a kind of microcosm for that moment of people bonded by a common need for rational approaches regarding the production and consumption of energy.

Many thanks to all who were present on the afternoon of the 12th. If any of you would like to add anything here do make your own contribution to the blog.

Posted by Ryan Coleman on Monday 21 September 2009