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.

    »Aufbruch in eine ungewisse Zukunft / Petromelancholia and its discontents / Одуматься! Сейчас!« Beitrag von Benjamin Steininger für Petersburger Dialog 7/2019

    Wie in einem System kommunizierender Röhren sind tatsächlich alle Gesellschaften auf ihre Weise betroffen, Rohstoffökonomien wie Kanada, die Golfstaaten oder Russland, aber auch In-dustrie- und Raffinerieökonomien in Europa und Asien, Produzenten und Konsumenten. Und man wird Wissen aus allen Strängen und Ecken dieses Systems benötigen, um das nächste, dann nachhaltige System zu entwickeln

    Aufbruch in eine ungewisse Zukunft (Deutsch)

    Petromelancholia and its discontents (English)

    Одуматься! Сейчас! ( русский )

    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