News / Arts & Entertainment

Oil Field Visit Inspires Artist's Floating Black Mass

Artist's Installation Fuels Debate Over Oil Pipelinei
X
January 29, 2014 11:01 PM
Among the major environmental decisions the Obama administration faces in coming weeks is whether to approve the Keystone XL pipeline that will carry tar sands oil from Canada across North America to coastal refineries in Louisiana. The debate pits those who say it will bring jobs and energy security against others who argue that the extraction of tar sands oil will harm the environment. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble has the story of an artist who is stepping into this controversy with an exhibit at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.
Rosanne Skirble
One major environmental decision the Obama Administration faces in the coming weeks is whether to approve the controversial Keystone XL pipeline that will carry tar sands oil from Canada across the North American continent to coastal refineries in Louisiana. 

Supporters say the pipeline will bring jobs and energy security, while opponents argue that tar sands oil will harm the environment.

A Canadian artist has stepped into the controversy with a tangle of foam logs, tar paper, shredded tires and black wings suspended from a glass dome at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington. 

The floating black mass is the work of Canadian artist Mia Feuer and it's based on a visit she made to a Canadian tar sands remediation site, where she saw toxic debris from oil production shoveled back into the mining pit. 

“They put a little layer of top soil and tried to grow trees. The trees, of course, can not grow," Feuer said. "So then they planted wheat. The hope is that the wheat will cleanse soil beneath it.” 

LISTEN: Oil Field Visit Inspires Artist's Floating Black Mass
Oil Field Visit Inspires Artist's Floating Black Massi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X

The chemically soaked wheat field did little cleaning.  It was overrun by mice.  In an effort to control the infestation, the oil company planted dead birch trees, roots to the air as a nest for predatory birds that would kill off the mice. It became, as Feuer titles her piece, An Unkindness.

“It was surreal. It was like a twisted, nightmarish nursery rhyme," she said. "That one moment of seeing these upside down trees in the landscape, it was so right there in front of me. I went to the tar sands because I was curious. I was really curious and I was hungry for firsthand experience and I went there, and I had no idea that I was going to see a landscape like this.” 

Under her ghoulish floating artwork, Feuer has installed an oval ice rink, a symbol of her hockey-loving native homeland, but the surface is a shiny black synthetic.

“It is black to reference, obviously, the color of oil," she said, "but almost like the grim and dark sort of moment we are in considering our addiction to oil.”

Skates are provided and museum-goers like Justin Boland take a solitary spin.  But there is little joy.

“The sculpture above, I have got to say, is really quite horrific,” Boland said. 

Other works in the show are inspired by an expedition to the Arctic in a sailing ship.

It was like we were there at this moment that was fleeting, and it was one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen in my whole life,” Feuer said.

Feuer bears witness to the changing landscape and collects plastic garbage that washes to shore.  She uses scraps of tar paper and rope to build a full-size dog sled on the deck of the ship.  And she creates a midnight sun with colored light bulbs, a replica of a clock she found in an abandoned coal town.  Another large piece re-imagines the collapsed coal mine with a jumble of planks and cascading blue tiles.

All the materials for this work, foam and plastic, are oil-based.  Feuer says she is tied to oil as much as anyone else. 

“I am more interested in making work that is relevant to the times that we exist in," she said. "I just want people who come to the show to have a response.  I do not know if it is my job to tell people what they should be feeling when they experience the work.”

George Bozzini, a retired English professor, definitely had a strong response to the exhibit.  “It looks like all the pictures of all the destruction in Iraq or Syria or Afghanistan that we see every day, utter destruction.”

Sarah Newman, the Corcoran's curator of contemporary art, sees that and more.  She says every visitor adds to the narrative, which she says explains the success of Feuer’s work.

“You can see that she moves people and she is making connections and evoking an environment that you can not get to another way," Newman said. "And her connections are poetic, and they are emotional and they are terrifying often.”

You May Like

UN Fears Rights Violations in China-backed Projects

UNHCHR investigates link between financing development and ignoring safeguards for human rights More

Boko Haram Violence Tests Nigerians’ Faith in Buhari

New president has promised to stem insurgency; he’s scheduled to meet with President Obama at White House July 20 More

Social Media Network Wants Privacy in User’s Hands

Encryption's popularity in messaging is exploding; now it's the foundation of a new social network More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugeesi
X
Carolyn Weaver
July 06, 2015 6:47 PM
In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugees

In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Rice Farmers Frustrated As Drought Grips Thailand

A severe drought in Thailand is limiting the growing season of the country’s important rice crop. Farmers are blaming the government for not doing more to protect a key export. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Video

Video 'From This Day Forward' Reveals Difficult Journey of Transgender Parent

In her documentary, "From This Day Forward", filmmaker Sharon Shattuck reveals the personal journey of her transgender father, as he told his family that he always felt he was a woman inside and decided to live as one. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Floodwaters Threaten Iconic American Home

The Farnsworth House in the Midwest State of Illinois is one of the most iconic homes in America. Thousands of tourists visit the site every year. Its location near a river inspired the design of the house, but, as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, that very location is now threatening the existence of this National Historic Landmark.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.

VOA Blogs

New in Music Alley

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Harry Wayne Casey – “KC” of KC and the Sunshine Band – comes to VOA’s Studio 4 to talk with "Border Crossings" host Larry London and perform songs from his new album, “Feeling You! The 60s.”