Visualizing Energy through Live Performance (2017-2018)


Public misconceptions about energy consumption and generation present challenges for both energy policymakers and leading decision-makers in industry.

Most individuals tend to underestimate the amount of energy that their most energy-intensive household appliances (such as their HVAC systems) consume by one or more orders of magnitude, while overestimating the energy use of more visible appliances (such as compact fluorescent lights). This is understandable since the only feedback homeowners receive is typically a monthly electricity bill. Additionally, the presence of more energy-efficient devices can result in a rebound effect, the greater use of more energy-efficient devices, which may lead to a counterintuitive net increase in overall energy consumption from the more efficient devices.

For energy generation, the intermittency of renewable energy sources such as wind has led to numerous misconceptions, especially that these systems are unreliable and may lead to blackouts. These misconceptions are, in part, a result of a lack of tangible, visual information for individuals about their own energy consumption and that of the larger power grid.

Project Description

Through performance, this Bass Connections project aims to make energy visualizations more accessible to the public. Team members will bring the energy flows in our everyday world to life in ways that make them more understandable and provoke deeper questioning of our interactions with energy and the implications on our lives and future.

An earlier version of this project team created a portable performance environment that is able to project images and sound into the local scene and respond to and record the local ambience. The scale of this penetration into the local environment is tunable and can be on a large scale (such as the work of Minneapolis Art on Wheels and The Graffiti Research Lab, which covers buildings) or an intimate scale, forming a personal interactive stage for just a few people (such as the work of Pete Guither in The Living Canvas). This mobile platform could be used to fill spaces with light and sound that reflect questions about the way the space and its occupants use energy, for example.

A related course in the Spring, Performance and Technology, will include a series of workshop modules in which visiting artists, social scientists or technologists are invited to present. The students will be tasked with a themed project to create a group performance that will be a step toward more complete pieces produced by midterm and the end of the course. Graduate students in the arts and sciences are sought to mentor the undergraduate students in the course and to possibly serve as lecturers for appropriate modules.

Anticipated Outcomes

Group performance and additional pieces

Team Outcomes to Date

Project website


Summer 2017 – Spring 2018

  • Summer 2017: Some undergraduate students will begin work helping graduate students and faculty to implement the technology at the Slippage Lab; a performance will take place at Moogfest
  • Fall 2017: Technology implementation
  • Spring 2018: Performance and Technology course; a workshop module (2-3 weeks) will be offered in the course using energy data visualization; a visiting artist, social scientist or technologist will be invited to present; students will be tasked with a themed project such as “Society is watching over me” or “I have many parts; some I hide” to create a group performance that will be a step toward a more complete piece produced by the end of the course; a performance will take place at Moogfest

Team Outcomes to Date

These Borders That Hold Me Down (performance by Thomas DeFrantz, James Clotfelter, Martin Brooke, Matthew Kenney, Quran Karriem, Rebecca Uliasz and Summer Dunsmore), presented at Moogfest, May 18-19, 2018

Visualizing Energy through Live Performance (poster by Martin Brooke, Thomas DeFrantz and Kyle Bradbury), presented at Bass Connections Showcase, April 18, 2018

Project team site


ChoreoLab 2018: "Turn Down For What?"

Visualizing Energy Use through Performance

This Team in the News

Student-produced Performance Illuminates Links between Energy, Technology and the Body

See earlier related team, Performance in the Community (2016-2017). This project was selected by the Franklin Humanities Institute as a humanities-connected project.

Bass Connections team members

/faculty/staff Team Members

  • Kyle Bradbury, Energy Initiative
  • Martin Brooke, Pratt School of Engineering-Electrical & Computer Engineering*
  • Thomas F. DeFrantz, Arts & Sciences-African and African American Studies*

/graduate Team Members

  • Summer Dunsmore, MFA/Experimental and Doc Arts

/undergraduate Team Members

  • Alice Dai, Mechanical Engineering (BSE)
  • Katherine Guo, Biomedical Engineering (BSE)
  • Noelle Li, Economics (AB), Statistical Science (AB2)