At first glance, a plastic sheet ensnared on roadside barbed wire, ripped and torn by the wind, might seem the farthest thing from the behemoth that is the oil industry. Yet Wolfcamp Catalogue, by refusing the comforts of documentary photography, engages in a structuralist, archival project that delves into the heart of the multifaceted phenomenon of petroleum in the West Texas Permian Basin. As the resurgence of shale oil has changed the terms of the global oil industry, it would seem that our visual world is secure: flip through a catalogue, buy the latest home appliance or sporting good. But with the growing elastic demand for oil, and unexpected shocks to the system, we find, more than ever, art’s urgent need to move beyond our “above ground” certainties, to excavate our “below ground” contradictions and desires. By recording traces and by following the medium, Amy Yeminne Kim grapples with the contingencies that haunt the world that has taken shape around that ubiquitous-yet-invisible, viscous substance we call “oil.” [Kevin Chua, PhD.]
Performative document US 385/ TX 338 (below) chronicles my real life incident witnessing a flag vendor’s truck being caught on fire.