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.

HOW THE FLOOD TURNED INTO GOLD, exca­va­tion in Bibi Hey­bat, 2017

HOW THE FLOOD TURNED INTO GOLD, oil-drenched land­mass on site in Bibi Hey­bat, 2017

HOW THE FLOOD TURNED INTO GOLD, translo­cat­ed land­mass in the exhi­bi­tion space, 2017