In the years leading up to the 1970s energy crises, artist and poet Liliane Lijn sketched speculative designs for a turbine that would generate both ‘practical energy for physical needs’ and ‘lyrical energy’ that empowered regenerative social forms and revolutionary structural transformations. To conceive of a transformative energy politics, Lijn insisted, meant looking beyond the material outputs of energy infrastructures and toward the psychic manifestation of a collective energy-imaginary-to-come. On the one hand, this maxim helps us to think against capital’s organisation of the work/energy nexus toward maximal efficiency and surplus value, jettisoning solutionist imperatives for an energic politics of resistance and liberation that addresses lyric needs alongside the practical demands of energy supply. In the work of building regenerative energy communities, though, we find that any liberatory politics and poetics of infrastructure remains grounded in practice. Rather than casting ahead to an emancipatory horizon, lyric needs emerge from the concrete processes and practices of meeting material demands in the face of another terminal crisis of energy, climate, and capital. They are, in Ernst Bloch’s terminology, the expression of a concrete utopia. Lyric needs are articulated in the mass refusal to pay heating bills; in the interstices of agroecological work on peri-urban plots; in the dismantling of power structures, power grids, and pipelines.
(Fred Carter, Sep 2023)