Aberdeen’s Maritime Museum is currently showing a series of works created as part of the Power Politics project. Supported by the Living Earth Foundation, this project set out to work with school pupils in Aberdeen City and Shire and Port Harcourt, looking at questions relating to oil, energy and development in two areas where the dominant industry is oil and gas. The Maritime Museum includes a recently reworked permanent exhibition on North Sea Oil and Gas, which is organised around an imposing scale model of an oil platform and draws heavily on materials provided by a range of industrial partners. Utilizing many of the standard photographic images found in advertising materials, the exhibition’s aesthetic is highly reminiscent of corporate publications.
The Power Politics show, located in a small gallery accessed via the central Oil and Gas display, stands in direct contrast to the permanent exhibition. Two video screens show documentary films discussing aspects of everyday life in Scotland and Nigeria, while a set of wall panels contain a number of large-scale comic strips taking up questions relating to the politics of oil and encouraging a critical encounter with the way in which the story of oil is narrated. The critique of representation offered extends to the Maritime Museum itself, noting the inclusion of a 3-D cinema in the museum’s Oil and Gas display. The cinema shows a documentary film created and donated by TAQA, the Abu Dhabi National Energy Company, which operates in the North Sea as a fully integrated exploration and production company. The film is entirely in keeping with the corporate aesthetic of museum’s permanent exhibition. The achievement of the Power Politics show is to place in question the authority of the story of oil and gas told in the museum. It effectively suggests the power of substituting the idea of telling the story of the North Sea with the imperative to tell multiple stories and insists that those stories must attend both to the local and to the global.
The project includes a set of learning resources and nine short films made by school pupils in Aberdeen and Port Harcourt. All the resources are available via the Power Politics website.