|Installation views, Diverseworks 2012. Photos: Paul Hester|
Necrocracy is a meditation on geology, time, nature and petrochemical production. First exhibited at Diverseworks in Houston Texas, Necrocracy featured newly commissioned works including video animation, drawing and sculpture. Questioning the inherited, Romantic-era division between the natural and the human, the works navigate between human manufacturing of petroleum-based products, ecology, and the geological chronology of oil.
The Diverseworks show marked the debut of seven animated works and included a labyrinth of fifty 10-foot high drawing-banners depicting a wide variety of things made from petroleum plastic: IV bags, flip flops, rubber chickens, artificial flowers, nylon umbrellas, gas masks, police riot shields, cell phones, car parts, condoms, diapers, and more. The animations (some video, some software driven) look at the petroleum-rich landscape of West Texas through a series of lenses: geological time, the larger ecosystem, and the interdependence of resources like water and oil. Subsequent exhibitions have reconfigured the works and added new ones.
In January 2011, I researched the Permian Basin during a residency hosted by DiverseWorks (blog link). From Marfa to Midland, I met with geologists, naturalists, cattlemen, oilmen, and activists. I traversed the high southern plains of the Llano Estacado-the ecosystem stretching from Lubbock to the Edwards Plateau-a landscape so subtle most people call it "The Big Empty." We, all of us who live on the grid of the US, are soaking in petroleum and wouldn't know how to live, feed, shelter, clothe, or express ourselves without oil-based products.
In the Permian Period 250 million years ago, the geological riches of the area were formed, as marine microorganisms accumulated in sediments on the floor of a vast saline sea. Over millions of years, the seas dried out, the landmass itself moved to its present location, and the marine creatures transmuted into hydrocarbons. In the past century, we have pumped over 100 billion barrels of oil and a hundred trillion cubic feet of gas from these Texas hydrocarbon reservoirs. The exhibit asks us to think about how we disturb, worship and are dominated by these long-dead beings: Necrocracy, or the rule of the dead.