Regen Art Lab’s 2021-2022 artist in residence, Karenza Sparks, shares her initial thoughts on the issue of decarbonising home heating.

In this first Regen Art Lab residency we are inviting the artist, Karenza Sparks, to explore the theme decarbonising heat. This refers to the considerable challenge of upgrading the majority of our buildings across the country: 1. to keep the heat in better and, 2. to change to non-polluting heating.  

This week, the government released its much-anticipated heat and buildings strategy; a necessary first step in the strong leadership required to overcome the challenge. For much of the public however, the corresponding news coverage will have been their first exposure to the coming changes. As Karenza discusses in this blog, decarbonising heat is not just about climate change, but is an intrinsically personal topic, and so, lack of public awareness is a serious threat to its success.

PortraitI am very excited to be Regen Art Labs’ first artist in residence – it is such a unique opportunity to be able to collaborate with Regen’s energy experts in this way. I am also eager to be working on such an incredibly relevant and pressing issue: how we are going to meet the challenge to decarbonise the UK’s heat. Through this collaboration I have the opportunity to create socially meaningful work, and with Regens resources I look forward to being quite ambitious in my approach.

My background is in illustration and animation, so I am new to the intricacies of this highly technical field. I hope the fresh perspective I bring will shine a light on new ways of thinking and innovative approaches to the subject for the Regen team and wider energy stakeholders, and that my learning journey and creative skills can help connect those outside of the energy industry with the ways in which decarbonising heat affects their lives. I am particularly interested in the amalgamation of art and science, and its ability to ‘re-humanise knowledge’ and to encompass the human experience of the world more fully as something both logical and emotional.[1]

In my first week of research and exploration I have already learnt so much that has surprised me about the social and environmental impacts of heating. For example, the realities that 37% of the UK’s carbon emissions arise from demand for heat[2], and that between 10% and 13% of UK households are considered to be living in fuel poverty[3]. These are the sorts of facts that I’m looking to bring attention to as I believe they remain largely unrecognised by the public, yet are critical for us all to consider when determining how we will choose to heat our homes.

My understanding is that, unlike the switch to green electricity sources (which has largely occurred at grid level), the change to decarbonised heating methods will be more personally involved and can require disruptive change in the home. This asks for a general acceptance of the methods and technologies associated with low carbon heating. The emissions associated with heating are a global environmental concern, but at a more basic level, heat is a human necessity, and there are wide reaching social impacts that come with its costs and availability. Through the ArtScience approach, I want to bridge the gap between the personal and technical issues that decarbonising our heat raises.

FlagsI often work with interaction design in my practice, through community projects, narrative, and play. I believe interaction is key when engaging people with a subject, and the decarbonisation of heat is an issue where public engagement is especially important. Earlier this year, I co-ran a community design workshop resulting in a series of ‘Flags of Humanity’ which shared different perspectives of humanity and imagine a united and borderless human future.[4] Through this project I was able to create a platform for ideas and discussion, and by collaborating with the community we produced something beyond the scope of what I had to say as an individual. I will use this experience to feed my approach: involving the audience to fully explore what is both a complex and personal topic.

Through the process of collaboration and interaction, I intend to provoke new thought, conversation, and understanding around decarbonising heat. You can follow my journey through the live mind map here: .

Read more about the Regen Art Lab here, and follow the project on Instagram here.






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