*My Electric Genealogy* Performance by Sarah Kanouse

Feb 13, 2023

06:30 PM - 08:00 PM

Art Building West, 240

141 North Riverside Drive, Iowa City, IA 52246

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Light-skinned hands hold a black and white photograph of a light-skinned, male-presenting person at a control console in what appears to be the early 20th century.

Part storytelling, part lecture, and part live documentary film, Sarah Kanouse’s solo performance “My Electric Genealogy” explores the shifting cultures and politics of energy in Los Angeles and the American West through the lens of her own family. 

“For nearly 40 years my grandfather worked for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, designing, planning, and supervising the network of lines connecting the city to its distant sources of electricity,” Kanouse explains. “The grid was his second family: when he died, he left behind boxes of snapshots that mixed birthday parties and family Christmases with portraits of power plants and transmission towers. Years later, I learned his legacy also included some of the most polluting fossil fuel infrastructure in the country—much of it located out of state, on Indigenous land. As these power plants finally and belatedly come down, what is owed the communities long harmed by this infrastructure?”

Combining storytelling with moving images, movement, and an original score, the 75-minute performance examines the “infrastructures of feeling” supported by the electric grid, including assumptions of perpetual growth and closely held beliefs about nature, gender, race, and progress. Sarah Kanouse weaves together signal moments in Los Angeles history, episodes of her grandfather’s life, anxious fantasies about a climate-challenged future, and stories of resistance and reinvention in the face of extraction. “My Electric Genealogy” is an essayistic working-through of energy as a personal and collective inheritance at a moment of eco-political reckoning.

Free and open to all.

Image: Sarah Kanouse, “My Electric Genealogy,” still from video projected during 80-minute performance lecture, 2022. Photo credit: Sarah Kanouse.

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