Devoting some time this week again to thinking through the concept of OilScapes, which signals an attempt to begin to map the complexities of contemporary petroculture, doing justice both to its particular singular manifestations in individual oil sites, while also opening up (making visible) the connections between these sites and, indeed, between the connections that connect. It also signals a future-oriented project for exploring these connections leads us to conclude that to think oil IS TO also think POST-OIL.
Energy: Oil and Post-Oil Architecture and Grids is the title of a fascinating exhibition currently on show at the MAXXI Architettura, in Rome. Drawing on material from the extensive eni historical archives, original photography and specially commissioned architectural projects, the exhibition traces Italy’s changing oil landscape from the 1940s into the post-oil future. Its focus is on sites of oil consumption, on highways, service stations, petrol pumps and motels. With its multiple engagements with specific ‘places of energy’, this show offers an intriguing perspective on the landscape of oil.
Having spent much of today reading and thinking about landscape theory and oilscapes, this evening’s screening at the Sir Duncan Rice Library Gallery, Aberdeen, of Ben Rivers’s evocative shorts (shot on 16mm and hand-processed) provided a fascinating example of film’s ability to provide a particular form of access to the oilscape – both in its materiality as a petrochemical derivative and in the way in which it can draw attention to its physical existence through recycling images of petrochemical waste. Rivers’s films, then, like Ernst Logar’s plastic ‘oil-rigs’ (temporary interventions in Aberdeen’s beach landscape) are works that make visible the relationship between oil and the visual arts through sculpting in oil.
Together with Trevor Stack, Owen Logan, Terry Brotherstone and others, I’ve been involved in organising a public conference on the Politics of Oil in a Changing UK, which will bring together academics, politicians, environmental and civil right activists and trade unionists. The conference will be hosted by the University’s Centre for Citizenship, Civil Society and the Rule of Law (CISRUL) and forms part of the University’s Energy Research Theme. It aims to stimulate broader public debate by addressing at the conference a series of key questions about the future of oil and gas in the UK (and beyond).
The conference will begin and end with a focus on the decisions to be taken on three (overlapping) sets of issues:
- What should be done with the profits of oil and gas?
- What should be the future of the oil and gas workforce?
- How can oil and gas production be best reconciled with care for the environment?
There will be a number of compelling speakers from Scotland and beyond, including Imre Szeman who leads the Petrocultures Research Initiative at the University of Alberta, Edmonton. He will be reflecting on the role and responsibilities of universities in relation to the global oil industry.