Petro East

Digital Petrosalon on the presence and history of oil extraction and petroculture in Western-Sibiria and the post-soviet sphere

Conceived of and organized by Beauty of Oil in cooperation with Oxana Timofeeva and the research group “Imaginary Anthropocene: environmental knowledge production and transfers in Siberia in the XX-XXI centuries“ at the Center “Human, Nature, Technology” of Tyumen University and Goethe Institute Novosibirsk.

Participants: Evgeny Gololobov, Doctor of Historical Sciences, Vice-Rector for Research, Surgut State Pedagogical University. Fedor Korandey, Senior Researcher, Laboratory of Historical Geography and Regional Studies, Tyumen State University. Alexander Sorokin, head of Department of Russian History, Head of Research Center “Human, Environment & Technology”, University of Tyumen. Igor Stas, Senior Research Fellow, Laboratory of Historical Geography and Regional Studies, and investigator of the project “Imaginary Anthropocene: environmental knowledge production and transfers in Siberia in the XX-XXI centuries”, Tyumen State University. Oxana Timofeeva, Professor and Leading Researcher at Department of Sociology and Philosophy, European University of St. Petersburg, founding member of the project “Imaginary Anthropocene: environmental knowledge production and transfers in Siberia in the XX-XXI centuries”, Igor Chubarov, Professor of Philosophy at Tjumen State University. Per Brandt. Director of Goethe-Institute Novosbirsk, Alexander Klose, Beauty of Oil, Benjamin Steininger, Beauty of Oil, And students of Tyumen State University.

Per Brandt: Opening
Alexander Klose, Benjamin Steininger: Introduction
Fedor Korandey: And the Fourth will not be… How the Tyumen Oil region has become “the Third Baku”
Eugene Gololobow: Oil in cultural life Surgut 60ies 70ies 80ies
Ilya Kalinin: Soviet Oil and Russian Cosmism
Igor Stas: Oil cities in the Russian Arctic (based on materials from the West Siberian sector of the Arctic)
Benjamin Steininger: Oil history of Austria
Alexander Klose: Druschba
General Discussion

Event in English and Russian, Wed Dec 2, 12 – 3 pm CET on Zoom.

Нефть – это полезное ископаемое мирового значения. Двигатель внутреннего сгорания, самолет, пластмасса и синтетические удобрения уже стали частью мировой истории в контексте любой общественно-политической системы. По сути, весь переход нашей планеты в эпоху Антропоцена напрямую связан с использованием ископаемого топлива. В то же время глобальный масштаб приобрели и экологические проблемы, которые вынуждают человечество искать альтернативы углеводородам.

Тем не менее, исторический опыт добычи и использования нефти различается от региона к региону. Равно как и «модерн» – определение исторической эпохи, – «петромодернизм» не является унифицированным понятием. Нефть играет разную роль в капиталистической и социалистической экономических системах, в нефтедобывающих и нефтеперерабатывающих странах, в странах Запада и странах Востока, в Арктике и в Европе. И именно сейчас, когда мир начинает развитие в направлении отказа от ископаемых источников энергии, важно учесть все перечисленные перспективы для формирования комплексного представления о значении этой эпохи.

Precognitioning Post-Oil NYC

Online conversation on imaginary futures, how to conceive of, get there and avoid them

with Heather Davis, Elizabeth Hénaff, Timothy Furstnau, and Karen Pinkus. Conceived of and moderated by Alexander Klose and Chris Woebken. Hosted by 1014. With works by students of CUNY Citytech.

Thursday, Dec 3, 2020, 6-7:30 pm EST on Zoom.

A videorecording of the complete zoom talk can be seen on the bottom of this page.

Imagine, oil-eating microbionts had taken over, cleaning up our current environmental mess. But they had also done away with everything beautiful and essential made out of plastics. 

Imagine, the use of fossil fuels and all fossil-fuelled technology had been forbidden without a proper energetic substitute. Everything eventually had to be driven down. Less mobility, less luxury, no exuberance. Deserted petromodern infrastructures refueled with petronostalgia. 

Imagine the American Way of Life reloaded, a return of cheap oil due to some scientific and technical breakthroughs. More consumption, more mobility, more wars, more of everything. Utopia or nightmare?

The 1014 project space has been transformed into a hyper-reality testing environment. It is populated with experiential futures prototypes that investigate our relationships in a spectrum of post-oil scenarios. Through narrative techniques and design futures methods a design studio at CUNY Citytech led by participatory futures practitioner Chris Woebken and cultural researcher Alexander Klose has developed a series of bespoke design interventions and immersive installations throughout our upper east side townhouse project space. In a private walkthrough Heather Davis (Eugene Lang College, The New School), Elizabeth Hénaff (NYU IDM), Timothy Furstnau (Museum Of Capitalism) and Karen Pinkus (Cornell University, Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future, Ithaca) were invited to immerse themselves into these alternative imaginations that explore new values and imaginaries for a post-petro New York City. Please join us for an online talk with our guests to delve into these precarious scenarios, and discuss and respond to new values, myths, and cultural imaginations that might emerge while being shaped by the afterlives of petro-modernity.

For more information on 1014 project space visit

To take a look at all the speculative media designs go to project website at Citytech.

Initially planned as a three part series of experimental workshops in a multimedia setting at project space 1014, this is the digital Corona-version and precursor of the physical events that will hopefully take place in 2021.

As an exercise in speculative design futures, students of an advanced studio in the Emerging Media Technology program of CUNY Citytech in the fall semester of 2020 were assigned to teamwork on the development of their own speculative media environments based on one of four scenarios handed out to them and located in one of four environments (or ‘zones’):

  • The Meadowlands: New Jersey, attaching East River and crossed by Hackensack River, the industrial hinterland and backwater of NYC;
  • Newtown Creek: a very heavily polluted canal on the boarder between Brooklyn and Queens, site of a continuous flow of oil spills that had been going on for 140 years and were altogether at least 50% bigger than the infamous 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill ;
  • Gowanus Canal: an industrial canal called by the name the indigenous inhabitants of this part of Brooklyn before the city gave its predeceasing natural waterstream, according to EPA (Unites States Environmental Protection Agency) one of the nation’s most seriously contaminated water bodies, now surrounded by heavily gentrifying areas;
  • Manhattan: the island that has been the zone per se in so many ficticious renderings of (post-)hyperurban life.
  • To read the 4 backdrop scenarios, click here.

    Plankton and drill head – digital revue and image amplified discursive event on Norway’s petromodern past, presence and future(s)

    A collaboration with Kunsthall Trondheim and Goethe-Institut Oslo.

    November 5 2020, 7 – 9pm at Kunsthall Trondheim and online.

    To participate online (via zoom) click here.

    Proposal for 500-krone-note by Ellen Karin Mæhlum, from: Norges Bank, Forslag til motiver på ny seddelserie. Norges ny seddelserie: Havet, 2014.

    In a musée imaginaire of the Norwegian history of extraction, a competition published by the Bank of Norway in 2014, calling for a new banknote design, could play a central role. The submitted sketches depict Norway as a land oriented towards the sea, in which the sea is simultaneously understood as an elementary space, a space of extraction and a molecular space of microorganisms and chemical compounds.

    One of the unrealised banknote designs contrasts the natural form of a paleohistorical plankton particle that was part of oil formation with the technical shape of a drill head used for oil exploration. It is a complementary image of the molecular essence of oil technology and the opening up of natural history as a source of economic wealth by technological means. It may indeed be an image for the way Norway has approached its own petrol age.

    Since the 1970s, Norway has been one of the most successful oil and gas extraction countries worldwide. Apart from other extraction countries, the depletion of fossil resources was anticipated before explorations began, giving rise to the notion of a sustainable post-oil future. Yet, the energetical base of fossil modernity on which Norway has built its social-democratic prosperity has become increasingly problematic. While the country has moved towards more sustainable means of energy production, it has not stopped its oil and gas extraction. New oil and gas fields are opening up and widening the area of exploration as far as the Arctic. The end of oil is being postponed, or so it seems. At the same time, Norway decidedly moves towards a post-fossil future by banning combustion engines on its own terrain and positioning itself as the sustainable“battery for Europe” thanks to its large reservoirs of hydro power.

    We are witnessing a move from fishing to industrial whaling to oil extraction to hydrotechnology and back—and all at the same time. This event will focus from a petrocultural-comparative perspective on questions such as: How does Norwegian society cope with these ambivalent moves? How does it culturally represent its petromodern legacy? What are the grand narratives that were established to lead Norway into petromodernity and beyond? Have they changed?

    Energy Humanities EAST 6/2018

    Energy Humanities EAST, a congress organized by slawistic and literary scholars from Humboldt University Berlin and University Potsdam, in cooperation with the University of Chicago, reacted to the fact that the academic field Energy Humanities, i.e. the cultural research of fossil modernities has been dominated by US-American and Canadian researchers and their respective research fields, namely their home cultures. The prominent role that namely the US has been playing in pathing the way into petromodernity can hardly be denied. But given, that the world had been strictly divided into two competing spheres of political-economic systems during the longest phases of the petromodern 20th century, it also seems quite reductionist to assume that the “American Way of Life” was the incarnation of the petromodern lifestyle and therefore researching on it would mean to trace aspects of this lifestyle in cultures around the globe. Quite the opposite could be true, that the sowjet system and society has produced its very own version of petromodernity and energy culture. To start collecting the pieces of this new perspective on the legacy of the sowjet-russian empire was the aim of the congress.

    Beauty of Oil was invited to produce and show a REVUE PETRO NOIR at Kino Arsenal as the opening event. We concentrated on the Sowjet-Russian and Easter-European holdings in our media archive and on a materialistic reading of Malewitch’s Black Square and the futuristic opera Victory over the Sun, in which it had materialized for the first time. Since we were not showing the material as a multi-channel projection but from one projector in a cinema, and in order to avoid being misinterpreted as some kind of cinematic contribution, we decided on the square format for the projection.

    First montage of three: Energy Utopia
    Concept and research: Bernd Hopfengärtner and Alexander Klose. Editing: Bernd Hopfengärtner
    ©Beauty of Oil 2018
    Second montage of three: Technical Slaves
    Concept and research: Bernd Hopfengärtner and Alexander Klose. Editing: Bernd Hopfengärtner
    ©Beauty of Oil 2018