Oil Ancestors

Oil Ancestors was inspired by my experience as a first-generation immigrant of Iranian and Azeri heritage. Petroleum imperialism has defined the contemporary relationship between my ancestral homeland and the US. The legacy of armed conflict and resource extraction also impacts many Caribbean, South, and Central American countries that are represented among the immigrant diaspora in Miami, where I live now. Furthermore, oil money funded the vacation fantasies that brought railroads to South Florida. Swampland and limestone were transformed under the cruel labor systems of convict leasing and debt bondage.

Every aspect of our lives is entangled with petroleum. We are completely dependent on it to bring us our food and to produce clothing. It has long been used in cosmetics, personal hygiene products, and food. Even bicycles and walking shoes rely on petroleum.

In Oil Ancestors, I’m considering ancient fossils, rocks, and minerals as part of our heritage. What would it mean to relate to petroleum as kin?

Is oil merely a fuel source and material for humans, or could it have other reasons to exist? Who is oil and what does oil want from us?

The different components of Oil Ancestors include:

1- The Metaphysical Hotline, a performance by telephone for an audience of one, developed by Live Arts Miami at Miami Dade College.

2- An oral history project documenting material and energy transitions, developed in response to the 2020 Westtown Artist Residency Project at The Weaving Mill in Chicago and the swatch exchange for Having Friends in the Future (HFF), an experimental project sponsored by the National Taiwan Crafts Research and Development Center and organized by Tribe Against Machine.

3- forthcoming AR experience developed with the Montréal/Miami New Narratives Lab hosted by the National Film Board of Canada, Mutek, Filmgate Miami, and O,Cinema.

4- Into the Proofer, an exhibit with poetry at 3127.space in Chattanooga, TN

5- Crude Oil Divination, a screencast livestreaming performance for the Out of Site: Random Acts series co-hosted by Experimental Sound Studio in Chicago

6- South Carolina cotton + Pennsylvania crude oil fire starter / smell jar for the Westtown Artist Residency Project with The Weaving Mill in Chicago (see images below)