Extractive Seeing: On the Visual Culture of Oil
Centre for Visual Arts and Culture
Public Lecture by Professor Janet Stewart “Extractive Seeing: On the Visual Culture of Oil”
7th March 2017, 18:00, Room 405, Business School, Durham University
Centre for Visual Arts and Culture (CVAC) Annual Lecture on Environments and Visual Culture. Professor Janet Stewart, Head of School in Modern Languages and Cultures will deliver this public lecture.
This paper is part of a larger research project, Curating Europe’s Oil, which sets out to investigate the role that archives (of different kinds) and museums have in constructing and potentially deconstructing existing narratives about fossil fuels that make possible particular behaviours and responses, while closing down or erasing others. It considers the role that oil plays in twenty-first century cultural memory in Europe, investigating how Europe’s oil history is being archived, narrated and displayed in key cultural institutions, showing how an understanding of the processes through which the experience of ‘living with oil’ in Europe has been catalogued, controlled and challenged are invaluable in imagining new narratives of possible energy futures. This paper explores one aspect of the larger project, arguing that a particular way of seeing, linked to the 20th century’s dependence on fossil fuels, in general, and oil, in particular, comes to dominate in the construction of the visual record of Europe’s oil dependencies, and in the way in which that visual record is interpreted. The paper introduces the concept of ‘extractive seeing’, and employs it to frame an investigation of the visual culture of oil in Austria, a country not often immediately associated with Europe’s oil history.
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