»Combustion: Reading the Ashes«, seminar at HKW Berlin with Barbara Fiałkiewicz-Kozieł, Rose Neil and Benjamin Steininger, 20.5.2022, 5 pm

In the context of »Unearthing the Present« (19.5.-22.5.2022), the final congress after ten years of Anthropocene at HKW, together with the members of the Anthropocene-Working-Group Barbara Fiałkiewicz-Kozieł and Rose Neil, Benjamin Steininger will be giving the seminar »Combustion: Reading the Ashes« on Friday, 20.5.2022, 5 pm. It is part of a series of workshops on Friday.

Find more about the congress »Unearthing the Present« (19.5.2022-22.5.2022) and the Workshop series »Markers – Material Delineations of the Present« (20.5.2022, 3–9 pm) at the respective links

In English // Free admission // Limited capacity, registration is desired:

Registration_Markers@hkw.de

Microplastics in bodies of water or organisms or the accumulation of radionuclides from nuclear weapons tests – anthropogenic markers have a political, technological and ecological history behind them. Developed from the online publication Anthropogenic Markers, researchers of the Anthropocene Working Group, humanities scholars and artists provide an insight into the laboratory practice of “Anthropocene forensics.” Eight sessions examine chemical and biological fingerprints as demarcations for the new geological epoch of the Anthropocene. Registration for individual workshops is now open.

»Towards a Chemical Cultural Theory: Speculating with Materials«, contribution by Benjamin Steininger in: Marcel Finke, Kassandra Nakas (ed): »Fluidity. Materials in Motion«, Berlin: Reimer 2022, p.165-186.

The volume is the final publication of the DFG funded research network Fluidity. Materials in Motion, which was active from 2019 until 2022. Authors among others: Kassandra Nakas, Marcel Finke, Inge Hinterwalder, Friedrich Weltzien, Jens Soentgen, Franz Mauelshagen (get the book here).

»AnthropoFest« at Tulane University New Orleans, 5.5.2022, licenced and approved as »bureaucratic research and documentation« by Beauty of Oil

The workshop at Tulane University was inspired by the 2019 Beauty of Oil »Bureau of Commodity Flows« (link to the report here) . We are happy to be part of it, at least from the distance !

»AnthropoFest invites festival goers to bring an object at JazzFest and register it to generate a collection that reflects the material culture of Jazz Fest this year. Plastic straw, mango sorbet, sand from the racetrack, or sunscreen: come create this collection! Where did this stuff come from and how does it relate to the Anthropocene— or Age of Humankind? Join us in collecting and creating the 2022 JazzFest AnthropoFest Collection!«

See our certificate displayed in a very nice way on the right top in the black frame.

»Molecular Mobilization«, contribution by Benjamin Steininger to the text series »Combustion« at the anthropocene-curriculum-publication »Anthropogenic Markers«

»How can an archaeology of the present address molecules as driving elements of the “Great Acceleration?” Benjamin Steininger, cultural theorist and also cultural practitioner, contends that the mobilization of combustion fuel molecules through the technical apparatus of catalytic chemistry has triggered a cascade of accelerations which lead to the fundamental transformation we now call the Anthropocene

»Investigating Petromelancholia: Petrosalon Rotterdam«, Goethe-Institut Rotterdam, 22.4.2022, 19:00, Westersingel 9

Foto: Project ‘Snelweg – Highways in the Netherlands’ van Theo Baart, Cary Markerink en Tracy Metz

(please scroll down for English invitation)

In alle politieke kampen en zelfs in de olie-industrie is men het er thans over eens dat wij het fossiele tijdperk achter ons moeten laten. Maar hoe slagen wij erin ons los te maken van een technologie en een cultuur die elk gebied van het leven diep hebben doordrongen? En hoe zal het leven ‘na de olie’ eruit zien?

Rotterdam kan worden gezien als een etalage voor de successen en de verschrikkingen van de petromoderniteit. De stad ligt in een geografisch gebied dat eeuwenlang door de mens is gevormd en is een van de oliehoofdsteden van de wereld. Rotterdam heeft de belangrijkste oliehaven, de grootste raffinaderij en de meeste petrochemische fabrieken van Europa. De stad zelf werd herbouwd als een uitgesproken modern project na de totale verwoesting door – petromoderne – Duitse oorlogstechnologie in de Tweede Wereldoorlog. De breedte van de lokale ervaring met vele aspecten van de wereldwijde petromoderne opbouw en vernietiging maakt een verscheidenheid aan vragen mogelijk: over materiaalstromen, levenswijzen, economische en politieke grondslagen en koloniale verwikkelingen.

Op uitnodiging van het Goethe-Institut verblijft cultuurtheoreticus en curator Alexander Klose van het onderzoekscollectief Beauty of Oil (Berlijn/Wenen) twee weken in Rotterdam voor een eerste onderzoek naar de stand van zaken rond de petromoderniteit in de stad. Dit markeert het begin van een langere onderzoeks- en conceptuele fase ter voorbereiding van een tentoonstelling over ‘petromelancholie’, die Beauty of Oil samen met Brutus/Atelier van Lieshout in het najaar van 2023 in Rotterdam zal realiseren.

In een Petrosalon aan het einde van zijn onderzoeksverblijf zal Alexander Klose samen met de cultuurtheoreticus en wetenschapshistoricus Benjamin Steininger de eerste resultaten en conceptuele ideeën in het Goethe-Institut Rotterdam presenteren en ter discussie stellen. In de traditie van de vroegmoderne salons zal er gelegenheid zijn voor conversatie in een informele sfeer onder het genot van een hapje en een drankje.

Alexander Klose en Benjamin Steininger zijn stichtende leden van het collectief Beauty of Oil. Onlangs nog stelden zij samen de tentoonstelling Oil – Schönheit und Schrecken des Erdölzeitalters samen in het Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg. Zij zijn redacteuren van Erdöl – Ein Atlas der Petromoderne (Matthes & Seitz Berlijn, 2020).
De Petrosalons die zij sinds 2018 hebben georganiseerd, vonden tot nu toe onder meer plaats in Wenen (Oostenrijk), Minsk (Wit-Rusland) en Trondheim (Noorwegen).

Beperkt aantal plaatsen beschikbaar.
Aanmelden verplicht tot uiterlijk 20 april 2022 via
Claudia Curio


»Investigating Petromelancholia: Petrosalon Rotterdam«, Goethe-Institut Rotterdam, 22.4.2022, 19:00, Westersingel 9

It is our pleasure to invite you to the PETROSALON ROTTERDAM on Friday, April 22, starting at 7 pm at the Goethe-Institut in Rotterdam, Westersingel 9.
The salon will be hosted by Alexander Klose and Benjamin Steininger, cultural theorists and founding members of the curatorial research collective Beauty of Oil (beauty-of-oil.org). Since 2018, the collective has been organizing PETROSALONS in various locations in Europe, including Minsk, Belarus, Trondheim, Norway, and Vienna, Austria.

The twilight of the Oil Age is looming. People from all political camps and even from the oil industry—now renamed energy industry—have started to agree on the necessity to go “beyond fossil”. But how do we leave a technology and culture in which we are so deeply submerged? And what will life “after oil” be like?

Rotterdam can be interpreted as a showcase of the achievements and horrors of petromodernity. Located in a geographical region that has been anthropogenic — man-made — for centuries, it is one of the world’s oil capitals. The city hosts the largest oil harbour, the largest refinery and the largest accumulation of petrochemical facilities in Europe. The city itself was rebuilt as a distinctly modern project after its total destruction by petromodern German warfare in the Second World War. The range of local experiences with all layers of global petromodern construction and destruction allows for a multiple set of questions: to the flows of materials, to ways of living, economical and political foundations and colonial entanglements.

At the invitation of the Goethe-Institut, Alexander Klose will spend two weeks in Rotterdam to start an investigation on the state of the city’s petromodernity. The research will be used to conceptualise and prepare an exhibition on “petromelancholia”, which Beauty of Oil will realise together with Brutus/Atelier van Lieshout in autumn 2023. During the PETROSALON ROTTERDAM, findings and conceptual ideas will be presented and discussed with the guests. The evening is an informal event in the tradition of the early modern salon: Everyone is invited to participate in the conversation, finger food and drinks will be served.

The PETROSALON ROTTERDAM is co-organised by the research collective Beauty of Oil(Berlin/Vienna) and the Goethe-Institut Niederlande.

Limited space! Please make sure to get your application by emailing to Claudia Curio until April 20, 2022 here

Extraction—Production—Destruction. On the Contradictory Productivity of Oily Images

Essay by Alexander Klose, published in Resolution Magazine #1 (2021), ‘Hot Pictures’

Thinking about the roles images play in the production of knowledge around anthropogenic damage to ecosystems, one stumbles into a meshwork of contradictory relations. Principally, it is possible to distinguish between two different categories of images: those about situations of extraction/destruction (with images of disasters being the most popular) and those brought forward or made by the situations themselves. The latter is a relatively new (or newly recognized) type of images that Susan Schuppli refers to as ‘dirty pictures’, a way in which “anthropogenic environments are documenting their own damaged condition.” Both types of images share a problematic condition: as they formulate a critique of extraction, destruction, and pollution, they are also a part of or the result of the circumstances they depict. In the following text I will concentrate on image-making related to the extraction and uses of oil (and the products it is used to produce) as being probably the most important and momentous of all anthropogenic substances shaping the contemporary condition of the earth. I will track some of these contradictory constellations and try to elaborate an understanding of the dialectical yet calamitous dynamics associated with producing these images.


Download full article as pdf here

Oily Houston

a visit to the Wiess Energy Hall at the Houston Museum of Natural Science (HMNS)

Downtown Houston from the innermost of the five highway belts.
All images and videos in this post by alexclose.

Visiting the ‘Petro Metro’ on invitation by Popup Goethe’s director Grant Aymond, I get the chance to meet Daniel Minisini in person. He is a geologist working for Shell, and in his spare time he hosts an interview series at the local free radio station KPFT Houston directed mainly at the geologists and oil engineers working in Houston. [But via his Youtube Channel also to critical petromodernity researcher all over the world.] In the beginning of 2021 he had interviewed Benjamin and me via zoom.

link to full interview

link to background information on minigeology on Rice University Website

When Daniel heard of my planned trip to Houston, he suggested a couple of places that I should definitely visit, among them the Wiess Energy Hall at the HMNS. The department, which has been completely remade for the bargain price of 42 Mio US$ and reopened in 2018, is dedicated to the physical aspects of a phenomenon that carries metaphysical proportions: energy, and its live-creating, live-sustaining powers.

In Houston, the world capital of oil, this comes down to a narrative almost thoroughly dedicated to the geological, technological, and—to some extent—social aspects of the exploration, production, refinement and consumption of petroleum.

The line-up of sponsors is a who-is-who of the oil business:

One can go down into the depths of the earth inside an enlarged, space capsule-like drillhead until striking oil. It feels like inside a shaky elevator with an overdimensional floor display:

Almost the same scenario is offered a second time, this time we travel horizontally over the land near Houston, than underneath it, in a spaceship-like fracking device:

Mentions of the problematic aspects of tough, unvonventional oil, about the damages done and the civil protests? None. The exhibition is a celebration of the achievements and perspectives of the “unconventional revolution” (as Daniel told me, the technologies of fracking and the like are referred to within the industry).

Oh, wait a second, here’s a critical passage dedicated to the possibility that it might be necessary in the future to step away from fossils towards other fuels:

Remarkable, though, that the striking argument is purely financial. 

A whole panorama in the best tradition of the “Futurama” commissioned by General Motors for the 1939 World’s Fair “The World of Tomorrow” in New York City is dedicated to future energy city (supported by Chevron). But it was closed for maintenance, I could only take a glimpse from the side.

It’s not hard to find professional coverage of this feat on the internet, though, for instance here, on the Museum’s Website.

After a lunch presentation of our work with Beauty of Oil I gave the next day at the architecture faculty hall of Rice University, a distinguished professor and member of the RDA (Rice Design Alliance) asked me, what i would answer to the critique that we have just changed the pictures within but not the museum itself with our OIL-exhibition at Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg. Given, that I had not seen a hint of a critical reflection of the oil legacy in all the impressing, shiny, and flashy museum landscape of Houston (with absolutely fantastic ensembles as the Cy Twombly Gallery in the Menil Collection and other top rate shows and collections dedicated mainly to classic modernity—meaning, the heydays of petromodernity), and also given, that I did get no answer whatsoever to my questions for an official critical discourse on petromodernity in the artworld or elsewhere from my academic audience at Rice, this fundamental critique seemed to be rather odd.

Benjamin Steininger: »Ammonia synthesis on the banks of the Mississippi: A molecular-planetary technology« in: »Anthropocene Review (2021), Special Issue: Mississippi«

“A google street view of CF Industries reveals almost nothing about these institutions” (after Bertolt Brecht)

The paper discusses the CF-industries ammonia plant in Donaldsonville, Louisiana. The plant is framed as an exemplary site from which the Anthropocene can be observed and understood. In doing so, a proposal for a “chemical cultural theory” is set out, to allow us to understand such molecular planetary technologies and interpret their (geo)historical significance. As one of the largest fertilizer plants in the world in terms of its output, and one of the largest chemical plants along the “Petrochemical Corridor,” a cluster of chemical industries situated between Baton Rouge and New Orleans, Donaldsonville typifies the relations between the nitrogen and hydrocarbon industries. Catalysis is here used both as a chemical concept and as a metaphor central to the proposed chemical cultural theory. As key to the Haber-Bosch process and refinery technologies in general, investigating the role of catalysis allows us to connect the history of the Petrochemical Corridor to that of German industrialism. This relation reveals how, from the late 19th century through to the World Wars, an ambivalent industrial co-operation between the US and Germany not only transformed local and planetary environments, it also contributed to the Anthropocene condition.

Precognitioning Post-Oil NYC – second iteration

What might it feel like to live in New York City after fossil fuels?

One year later as planned and only with the help of an NIE (National Interest Exception) they are finally happening with Alexander Klose physically in New York City, and together with New York-based speculative designer Chris Woebken: three successive precognitioning sessions taking place on Oct 28/29/30 at tenfourteen. space for ideas, 1014 5th Avenue, New York, NY!

Collage by Adeline Chum, Jules Kleitman, Aditi Mangesh Shetye, 2021

The fossil energy regime of coal, oil and gas has to and will end eventually, coal rolling and the renewed celebration of excessive fossil fuel consumption having been merely petromelancholic rebound effects… This is the backdrop for our ongoing research project on the histories and afterlives of petromodernity. How do we want to live in a post-fossil future? How and with whom will we develop new kinships after the social bonds connected to the resource economy and the exuberant promises of our ‘Western Way of Life’ are untied? Will we actively delve into a world of living materials and microbiological entanglements? Will we get beyond racism and patriarchy? Will we cease to privately own land? 

Join us at one of three successive precognitioning sessions at 1014! Play out visions of urban renewal, societal reformation, and a post-extractivist approach towards natures and societies after the possible endings of fossil energy regimes. 

Collage by Tashania Akemah , 2021

Through narrative techniques and design futures methods a series of bespoke design interventions and immersive installations transform 1014 into a hyper-reality testing environment. Using guided speculative role play and co-created moments of immersion, participants are encouraged to experiment with new values and beliefs that might emerge in a post-petro world. The scenarios and installations have been developed in collaboration with an architecture course at Columbia Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, led by participatory futures practitioner Chris Woebken in partnership with cultural researcher Alexander Klose. 

The idea of precognition: Being neither driven by big corporations nor by governments, the precognition process takes up the project of working with and on futures in an explicitly non-technocratic, experimental way. It avoids statistics-based “scientific” methodologies. Instead, it relies on collectively crafted visions and material-based artifacts and embodied roleplay. An archeology of the fossil presence: surveying infrastructures, collecting images and narratives that at the same time manifest all kinds of afterlives and hint to possible escape routes. 

You’re invited to join us as a participant on one of the evenings Oct 28, Oct 29, Oct 30. In two groups of max 15 people, visitors will walk through the installations and the precognitioning process accompanied by Alexander Klose and Chris Woebken and different ‘lead speculators’ from varying fields of practice and knowledge for each evening. We will explore and respond to new precognitioned values, myths, and cultural imaginations that might emerge while being shaped by the afterlives of petro-modernity.

Thursday 10/28, 6:30 – 9 pm with lead speculators Dan Taeyoung and Dr. Elizabeth Hénaff

Friday 10/29, 6:30 – 9 pm with lead speculators Aristilde Kirby and Frank Morales

Saturday 10/30, 6:30 – 9 pm with lead speculators Ayodamola Okunseinde and Ben Holbrook

For more information on the lead speculators scroll down.

Precognitioning Post-Oil is realized in cooperation with GSAPP Columbia University

https://www.arch.columbia.edu

and Goethe-Insitute New York,

https://www.goethe.de/ins/us/en/sta/ney.html

and commissioned by tenfourteen, space for ideas.

https://www.1014.nyc

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Biographies:

Dr. Elizabeth Henaff

Computational Biologist and Artist

Dr. Elizabeth Hénaff is a computational biologist with an art practice. Her academic trajectory started with a Bachelors in Computer Science, followed by a Master’s in Plant Biology (both from UT Austin) and a PhD in Bioinformatics from the University of Barcelona. At the center of her work is a fascination with the way living beings interact with their environment. This inquiry has produced a body of work that ranges from scientific articles in peer-reviewed journals, to projects with landscape architects, to working as an artist in environments from SVA to the MIT Media Lab. She has made contributions to understanding how plants respond to the force of gravity, how genome structure changes in response to stress, and most recently has turned her attention to the ubiquitous and invisible microbial component of our environment. She currently holds an Assistant Professor position in the Technology, Culture and Society department at the NYU Tandon School of Engineering in New York City.

http://idm.engineering.nyu.edu/henafflab/

Ben Holbrook

Playwright and filmmaker

Ben Holbrook is a Brooklyn-based (originally from NC) playwright and filmmaker whose works have been produced, developed, or commissioned by: Fundamental Theater Project, Ruddy Productions, The New York International Fringe Festival, The Memphis Fringe Festival, The Motor Company, Voices of the South (TN), Ugly Rhino(LA), Seoul Players (SK), Holiday House, Find the Light (LA), The Irish Arts Council, 45th Street Block Association, and Paper Lantern Theatre Company (NC). His films have been seen at the Big Apple Film Festival, The Imaginarium Convention, The Comedy of Horrors Festival, The Sickest Short Films Festival, and The Films Open Mic Festival. He’s been awarded the Edward Albee Foundation fellowship, the Drama League Rough Draft Residency (partnering with Sam Underwood), Fresh Ground Pepper’s Playground Playgroup Residency, The New Concepts Theatre Lab at UNC-Greensboro, Magic Time at Judson Church, and is the inaugural recipient of the Peter Shaffer Award for Excellence in Playwriting. Ben is also the co-owner of Full Metal Workshop.

Aristilde Kirby

Poet

Aristilde Kirby (she/they, b. 1991) is a poet, like the play of the ripples on the water. Daisy & Catherine², her latest chapbook, is out in November via Auric Press. Past works include Daisy & Catherine (Belladonna, 2017) & Sonnet Infinitesimal / Material Girl (Black Warrior Review & Best American Experimental Writing 2020). She has a Master of Fine Arts degree in Writing from Bard College. You can just call her Aris, like Paris without the P. 

Frank Morales

Episcopal Priest, Writer and Housing Activist

Frank Morales is a legendary New York City housing activist, a radical Episcopalian priest who has been squatting in the South Bronx and on the Lower East Side since 1978. Morales was the housing organizer for Picture the Homeless, a homeless-led grassroots group that developed a multipronged program of direct action to secure housing for homeless people, alongside groups like Miami’s Take Back the Land.

Morales currently co-leads Organizing for Occupation, a group of New York City residents from the activist, academic, religious, homeless, arts, and progressive legal communities who have come together to respond to the housing crisis. The group believes that safe and affordable housing is a human right and that, given the failure of government and the private sector to address the crisis, it is up to those who are most directly affected by it to secure that right through nonviolent direct action. The group intends to create housing through the occupation of vacant spaces and to protect people’s right to remain in existing housing through community-based anti-eviction campaigns.

Ayodamola Okunseinde

Nigerian-American Artist, Designer, Anthropologist and Time-traveler

Okunseinde studied Visual Arts and Philosophy at Rutgers University where he earned his B.A. His works range from painting and speculative design to physically interactive works, wearable technology, and explorations of “Reclamation”. He was nominated for the 2021 inaugural Knight Art + Tech Fellowship and is a 2021 fellow of the Graduate Institute for Design, Ethnography & Social Thought. His works exist between physical and digital spaces; across the past, present and future. Okunseinde’s works ask us, via a technological lens, to reimagine notions of race, identity, politics, and culture as we travel through time and space. He holds an M.F.A. in Design and Technology and an M.A. in Anthropology from The New School. He is currently a Ph.D. student in Anthropology at The New School for Social Research and serves as an Assistant Professor of Interaction and Media Design at Parsons School of Design.

http://www.ayo.io/

Dan Taeyoung 

Designer, Architect, Teacher, Learner

Dan Taeyoung is a learner, facilitator, spatial designer, and technologist. His practice involves around collaborating to create architectural spaces and social collectives that embody how we might want to live together, as well as researching design and social tools that change the way we work together. He teaches at Columbia University GSAPP and NYU IDM; is a founding member of Soft Surplus, a co-founder of Prime Produce, a guild for social good, the NYC REIC, an real estate investment cooperative working towards anti-displacement and community land ownership.

https://dantaeyoung.com/

Installations by: 

Tashania Akemah, Adeline Chum, Ethan Davis, Jules Kleitman, Yingjie Liu, Brianna Love, Gloria Mah, Camille Newton, Aditi Mangesh Shetye, Kaeli Streeter, Carmen Yu

Film by:  

Christoph Girardet