Cameron Naylor is the Regen Art Lab’s 2022/2023 artist in residence and will be exploring the theme “energy democracy, community energy, and the power grid”, through sound art.

Cameron HeadshotIn this introductory blog, Cameron shares his thoughts on what he’s learned so far and how he plans to respond to the themes in his work.

It is an absolute honour and privilege to be an artist in residence with the Regen Art Lab. As an artist, the opportunity to work in collaboration with climate and energy experts is an incredibly exciting experience, and to do so around such a pertinent topic as energy democracy adds a real weight and drive to the work I’m doing with Regen. The opportunity to come in as a complete beginner to such a nuanced topic as the grid and not only to learn about it with experts, but to actually talk and creatively collaborate with the communities out there spearheading the push towards a sustainable and equitable, is an incredibly exciting opportunity – my hope is that I can engage in a truly meaningful knowledge exchange, resulting in an impactful work that helps amplify the voice of these communities fighting for energy justice. 

I am a sound artist, exploring narratives in radio, theatre, film, and electroacoustic music, and am a complete beginner when it comes to the details of energy democracy. What I know is storytelling through sound, and my hope is that through my understanding of recording and sound design, I can amplify the voices of those community members working tirelessly to establish sustainable, and renewable relationships with the grid. With the help of the Regen team, I can continue learning and refining my stance on the democratisation of energy. This is a crucial step in my creative journey, and my interest is in capturing (inter)subjective and experiential dimensions of environmental practices, focusing instead on the grassroots and participatory engagement within the energy community, through the recording and presentation of oral histories. 

Preliminary research has revealed just how much there is to learn when it comes to the issues surrounding energy democratisation. It has been eye opening to see just how our current electricity system is set up for one way energy flows suited to large scale centralised power stations, therefore prioritising big energy corporations while making it financially and physically much trickier for communities to establish their own decentralised power generation alternatives.[1]

The distribution network must see a huge overhaul if we are to achieve a democratic energy economy. The transition to a Distribution System Operator (DSO) is not just a democratic shift – it is also integral to the decarbonisation of energy generation, and a crucial element in our country reaching net zero. Sustainability, reliability, and affordability are all key components of a just transition to a DSO, and with this switch will come environmental, economic, and societal change.[2],[3].

To provoke this change, the public must be both engaged in and informed of the steps necessary for reformation.[4] This is where sound art comes in. Interviews and oral histories pose a powerful means for interrogating environmental and social practices, meanings, and power relations [5]. My aim is to empower listeners through informative storytelling [6]. By recording the soundscapes of the local area, as well as recording the sounds of power machines, I hope to situate the listener in the environments in which these communities reside. 

I will be interviewing community energy groups and others already participating in the energy democratisation. By using real stories, from voices across the energy system, I can transcend my personal bias and present the nuances of the broad and complex topic. This bottom-up approach to the project aligns with the values of cultural democracy [7] which mirrors the necessary shift to community engagement as a means for the democratisation of energy in the UK.

You can follow my process via my live mind map on Miro, and follow the project on the Regen Art Lab Instagram. If you would like to contribute your experience as part of an energy community, or relevant audio you would like to hear included, contact me directly here.

[5] Williams, B. Riley, M. “The Challenges of Oral History to Environmental History”, Environment and History, 26(2): 207-231.

Cameron’s other projects:

ExoplanetsCn 1Empowering Voices

Kent Dockyard       Audiovisions

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