translocation of 2000 kg of Bibi Heybat oil sludge, variable dimensions
The work “How the Flood Turned Into Gold” stages the process – and its results – of translocating 2000 kg of oil sludge from the world’s oldest oil field in Bibi Heybat (Baku) to the exhibition space of Yarat in Baku. By excavating and moving the oil-drenched landmass from the exterior context of a productive industrial wasteland to the clean interior space of an art institution, both the landscape of the excavation site and the perception the oil sludge’s material properties are transformed. In this changed spatial setting the »black gold« – as oil is frequently referred to due to its central role in industrial society and its finiteness – reveals its visual, haptic and olfactory properties. Moreover, it acquires a mythological dimension, evoking the ancient past, when dead marine organisms sank to the ground of primordial oceans and over the course of millions of years were transformed under the absence of oxygen into what we know as oil today. Besides the material and sensual presence of the oil sludge, the actual process of moving it forms an integral part of the work. This process, which included negotiations with political authorities and an oil corporation, highlighted some of the power relations in which the oil is enmeshed, and involved people from different social realities in Baku, those who live the promises that the material contains, as well as those for whom they remain an illusion.