(Image: The Petroleum Manga)
March 16-April 21, 2012
Commissioned by DiverseWorks as part of the Fotofest 2012 Biennial
Necrocracy is an immersive art exhibition exploring geology, time, nature and petrochemical production through video animation, drawings and sculpture. Necrocracy questions the inherited, Romantic-era division between the natural and the human, as it navigates the critical-creative edge between human manufacturing of petroleum-based products and the ecological and geological histories of oil.
In January 2011, DiverseWorks supported a twoweek research trip for Zurkow to the Permian Basin. From Marfa to Midland, the artist met with geologists, naturalists, cattle ranchers, people working in the oil industry, and activists. She traversed the high southern plains of the Llano Estacado, the region stretching from Lubbock to the Edwards Plateau and a landscape so subtle that it has been dubbed “The Big Empty.” During the trip she became hyper-aware of several things: “We—all of us who live on the USA grid—are soaking in petroleum and we 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, and these 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 exhibition asks us to think about how we disturb, worship and are dominated by these long-dead beings: Necrocracy or the rule of the dead.
Necrocracy was curated by Artistic Director Sixto Wagan and Diane Barber, former DiverseWorks Co-Executive Director
Thanks to Veronique Brossier, Ellen Anne Burtner, Lucie Fink / DuPont, Lara Grant, Kevin Loutzenhiser / Global Protection USA, Mary Magsamen, Bobby McKnight, Michelle Mayer, Timothy Morton, Lindsay Nordell, Nancy Nowacek, Ruth Ozeki, Paul Paradiso, Ryan Perry, Petroleum Museum Archives, John Pluecker, Jon Read, Steve Sacks / bitforms gallery, Daniel Shiffman, Abigail Simon, Robert Tidwell, Burr Williams / Sibley Nature Center, Tom Williams / Williams Oil Co., and The John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation
Mesocosm (Wink, Texas) (2012)
Software-driven animation, color, sound
Custom software, computer
Code design: Veronique Brossier
Animation assistance: Michelle Mayer
Occasional sound: Lem Jay Ignacio
Mesocosm (Wink, Texas)—the feature, large-scale video installation in Necrocracy—is part of an ongoing series of animated landscapes that develop and change over time in response to software-driven data inputs. The title is drawn from the field of environmental science and refers to experimental, simulated ecosystems, which allow for manipulation of the physical environment and are used for biological, community, and ecological research. They are drawn by hand, frame-by-frame, yet their choreographies are dynamic—not predetermined or canned—dictated by constraints in real-time. Each of the works in Mesocosm is long in duration and recombines perpetually as inputs determine order, density, and interrelationships. They are looped, and have no beginning or end. Because change happens slowly but can be radical over time, the works are intended to be seen in public places where people gather or pass through frequently, or lived with like a painting—in living rooms and meeting spaces.
Wink, Texas is the most recent landscape to be animated as part of the Mesocosm series. In the animation, a large sinkhole— the “Wink Sink 2” located on private oil company property in the small Texas town of Wink—boils, gushes, flows, and expels objects: plastic bags, oil, and dark clouds that whirl out of the sinkhole’s vortex in ghostly choreography. Oil refineries burn off gases in plumes in the background as an occasional train or coyote lumbers past. This sinkhole has been widening steadily since it emerged in 2002; here, it appears as a natural geological event, complete with picnic rest stop furnishings. By day, the landscape is inhabited by birds, prairie dogs, insects, pronghorn antelope, HazMat workers and—depending on the season—by migrating monarch butterflies, snakes and sandhill cranes.
The Thirsty Bird (2012)
Two-channel animation, black and white, silent
5 min,12 sec loop
Animation assistance: Lindsay Nordell
The movement of a pump jack (known colloquially as a “thirsty bird”) and a public water fountain are synchronized in a delicate dance. As the pump pulls oil upward, the water fountain spurts water. An array of archetypal individuals—cowboys and Indians, a father and son, a county sheriff, a cow, a soldier, a girl and her dog—emerge in endless succession to drink from the fountain. The graphic treatment is based on Gerd Arntz’s ISOTYPE (International System Of Typographic Picture Education), developed with Viennese social scientist and philosopher Otto Neurath (1882-1945) as a method for visual statistics.
Single-channel animation, color, sound
2 min, 32 sec loop
Extracted, manipulated and re-animated from the industrial film The Inside Story of Modern Gasoline (1949), endless chains of anthropomorphized
hydrocarbon molecules dance until they blot out the screen. The hydrocarbon, an organic compound consisting of hydrogen and carbon atoms, may take on an indiscriminate variety of forms: rotting garbage, corpses, natural gas; and forms the base unit of the chains that make plastic. Hydrocarbons know not what they become; they simply proliferate, all energy and potential.
NeoGeo I – IV (2012)
Marina Zurkow in collaboration with Daniel Shiffman
Processing development: Dan Shiffman
Single-channel animation, color, silent
Qucktime renders of Processing sketches, custom
computers, speedrail, mirror
12 minutes each
Technical Assistance: Paul Paradiso
NeoGeo I-IV is a set of four 12-minute Quicktime renderings of algorithmic, moving image works created in Processing. They visually represent the work of an oil drill as it penetrates through an infinite series of geological layers, which continually auto-generate based on pre-programmed computerized parameters.
The environment is composed of tiny bits of hand-drawn rock, created in code, and activated by rules of physics and the formation of strata; rules affect the density and behaviors of the strata, as well as the possible location of hydrocarbon particles, all of which come into contact with a drill bit. Cap rock (salt and shale) forms barriers under which hydrocarbon particles accumulate. An oil “gush” occurs if conditions are right. NeoGeo visualizes the density and graphical, mutating formations of rock, as well as the liquidity of the earth over unfathomably long periods of time.
HazMat Suits for Children (2012)
Tychem® TK fabric, acrylic,
Velcro, rubber, mannequin
Fabrication: Lara Grant
Tychem® TK fabric courtesy of DuPont(tm)
Approx 45” tall
Edition of 5 suits
Dupont’s patented Tychem hazardous materials clean-up suits are used in petroleum industry disaster response to mitigate ecological disasters. These suits have been re-scaled to outfit toddlers. The suits are sealed to prevent actual toddlers from entering them, thus assuring that no children are harmed in the process.
EXAMPLES OF PETRO MANGA:
The Petroleum Manga (2012)
Solvent ink on Tyvek
10’ x 54”
Research: Miriam Simun
Drawing assistance: Ellen Anne Burtner
Printing: Vista CRC Lab, NY
Manga is a Japanese term that refers to “whimsical drawings” or picture books. For The Petroleum Manga, the organization of this “picture book” on oil is drawn from Hokusai’s thirteen volume manga, depicting everything from trees to demons, from squirrels to shingles. Each Petroleum Manga banner represents items made out of a specific petrochemical: PET, PVC, HDPE, PMMA, polystyrene, polyurethane, ammonia, nylon, parrafin and more. These heroic banner-size drawings on Tyvek divide the gallery space into a labrynthian maze, with their images of oil-derived products: garbage bags, water guns, plastic chickens, balloons, food containers, credit cards, and more.
Artist Talk with Marina Zurkow
Saturday, March 17, 1pm
Artist-in-Residence Marina Zurkow will give an indepth tour of her multimedia exhibition, Necrocracy, that explores landscapes, hydrocarbons as agents, and other issues inspired by her research trip to the Texas Permian Basin. As part of the tour, Zurkow will discuss her research trip, ecosystems and the technology that she has created to produce video animations.
This event is free and open to the public.
DiverseWorks is a VAN Partner of the Visual Arts Network (VAN). This project is made possible in part through support from the Visual Artists Network
Exhibition Residency, which is a program of the National Performance Network. Major contributors are the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts,
the Joan Mitchell Foundation, the Ford Foundation and the Nathan Cummings Foundation. For more information: www.npnweb.org
Necrocracy received additional support from the Alice Kleberg Reynolds Foundation.
This presentation of NeoGeo is in collaboration with Aurora Picture Show with support from the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts.
Necrocracy is part of FotoFest 2012 Biennial
DiverseWorks is a non-profit art center dedicated to presenting new visual, performing, and literary art. DiverseWorks is a place where the process of
creating art is valued and where artists can test new ideas in the public arena. By encouraging the investigation of current artistic, cultural and social
issues, DiverseWorks builds, educates, and sustains audiences for contemporary art.
DiverseWorks Gallery Hours:
Wednesday–Saturday, 12–6pm or by appointment
DiverseWorks ArtSpace is generously supported by:
Alice Kleberg Reynolds Foundation; The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc.; Anonymous; Brown Foundation, Inc.; Brad & Leslie Bucher; The City of Houston through the Houston Arts Alliance; Cullen Trust for the Performing Arts; Doris Duke Charitable Fund; Houston Endowment (a federal agency); Joan Mitchell Foundation; KUHF (88.7FM) / KUHA (91.7FM)*; LINC (Leveraging Investments in Creativity); Louisa Stude Sarofim Foundation; MAP Fund/Creative Capital; National Endowment for the Arts; National Performance Network; New England Foundation for the Arts; Texas Commission
on the Arts; University of Houston; Birgitt Van Wijk; The Wortham Foundation, Inc.
Foundation for Contemporary Art; Fritz Lanham & Kellye Sanford; Nightingale Code Foundation; Regulatory Economics Group, LLC; Visual Artists Network; Fabéne Welch
Bernie & Mary Arocha; Rosalie Buggs; Felix Sanchez Photography*; Patrick & Tracey Keegan; Que Imaging*; Shannon & Leslie Sasser; Saint Arnold Brewing Company*; Bob & Lillian H. Warren
A Fare Extraordinaire*; American Express Charitable Fund; Diane Barber & Karen Niemeier; Adam Brackman; David Brown*; Boheme Cafe & Wine Bar; Shannon Buggs; CenterPoint/June Deadrick; Jereann Chaney; Cozen O’Connor; Jason Fuller; Greentree Foundation; Guitar Center*; Houston Chronicle*; Houston Independent School District; Allison Hunter*; Italy-America Chamber of Commerce of Texas – Houston*; JBD Foundation; Mark Johnson;
J.B. Kobayashi*; Marshal & Victoria Lightman; Lester Marks & Penelope Gonzalez; Tierney Malone*; Paul Mandell; Sari Miettinen; Lan Norwood & Bryan Vezey; Judy & Scott Nyquist; Poison Girl; Pura Vida Tequila*; Real Ale Brewing Co.*; Howard Sherman*; Kaneem Smith*; Christina Solís; Target Corporation; Chuy Terrazas; Emily Todd; Mark Dean Veca*; Wade Wilson Art*; Sixto Wagan & Matthew Dirst; Sarah Walters; Frank White*; Whole Foods*; Josh & Tina Zulu*
BOARD OF DIRECTORS
William Betts, Adam Brackman, Loli Fernández-A Kolber, Jason Fuller, Rob Greenstein, Stephen Hill, Patrick Keegan, Marshal Lightman, Kellye Sanford, Christina Solís, Sarah Walters
Soodabeh Babcock, Elizabeth Barrera, Elaine Bradford, Lucinda Cobley, Melanie Crader, Sasha Dela, Casey Fleming, Mark Francis, Ryan Geiger, Hank Hancock, Laura Harrison, Thomas Helton, J Hill, Maria Cristina Jadick, Mick Johnson, Laura Lark, Libbie Masterson, Greg Oaks, Louie Saletan, Soody Sharifi, Katherine Veneman