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.


Mesocosm (Wink, Texas) (2012)
Software-driven animation

Hydrocarbons (2012)
Single channel animation

NeoGeo (2012)
Collaborator: Daniel Shiffmsn
Drilling visualization, sculpture

The Thirsty Bird (2012)
Single channel animation

The Petroleum Manga (2012)
Tyvek print banners and wallpaper

HazMat Suits for Children (2012)
TychemTK sculptures

Body Bags for Animals (2013)
Tyvek sculptures

Landfill Club (2014)
Collaborator: Ben Kauffman
Social sculpture

Outside the Work Boston (2013)
s: Lucullan Foods
Dinner for 50 that folds time, petroleum, petrochemicals
and high end foods into participatory performance.

Outside the Work Houston (2014)
Collaborators: Lucullan Foods
Dinner for 50 that folds time, petroleum, petrochemicals
and high end foods into participatory performance.

The Petroleum Manga (2014)
in collaboration with Valerie Vogrin and 40 writers

Immortal Plastics (2012)
Collaborator: Sarah Rothberg
Tyvek print banners and wallpaper



Diverseworks, Houston, 2012
Richard Levy Gallery, Albuquerque, 2012
bitforms gallery, New York, 2013
Boston University School of Visual Arts, Boston, 2013
Wheaton College 2013
Colorado College 2013
Transitio Festival Mexico City 2013
Wasserman Gallery Detroit 2014
Sundance Film Festival, New Frontier 2014
Rice University 2014
Baruch College 2014
Barnard College 2014


Artist Brings Complex Issues to the Table
, Houston Chronicle
The Insidious Poetics of Marina Zurkow, Creators Project
Might Be Good interview by Rachel Hooper
Black gold: Petroleum by-products fuel Marina Zurkow's provocative Necrocracy FotoFest show, writer: Joseph Campana, Culture Map
Doug Aitken, Darren Almond, Marina Zurkow, ArtInfo


Diane Barber, Laura Blereau, Veronique Brossier, Ellen Anne Burtner, Mike Childs, Domino Plastics, Elizabeth Dunbar, Lucie Fink / DuPont, Lara Grant, Kevin Loutzenhiser /Global Protection USA, Mary Magsamen, Bobby McKnight, Michelle Mayer, Timothy Morton , Lindsay Nordell, Nancy Nowacek, Susan O'Flynn, Ruth Ozeki, Paul Paradiso, Ryan Perry, Petroleum Museum Archives, John Pluecker, Jon Read, Lucy Ross, Steve Sacks/ bitforms gallery, Nina Samuel, Marcia Sardy-Schofield, Daniel Shiffman, Abigail Simon, Miriam Simun, Robert Tidwell, Sixto Wagan, Burr Williams / Sibley Nature Center, Tom Williams / Williams Oil Co, and The John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation.
Text by John Pluecker