A thing is never just an object, but a fossil in which a constellation of forces are petrified.
-- Hito Steyerl, A Thing Like You and Me
motor oil, liquid crystal projector, video projection of basement performance using petrochemical objects, and 1946 film by the Ethyl Corporation.
4’ x 4’ x 11’
Screenshot from 1946 Ethyl Corporation Film Looking Forward.
Midwest Refinery fire, 1921 in Casper, Wyoming. Accessed from the Billings Gazette.
In its sincerity, reality envelops us like a film of oil.
--Timothy Morton, Hyperobjects
In 1924, General Motors, DuPont Chemical Company, and Standard Oil of New Jersey combined patents and formed the Ethyl Corporation, under which they produced leaded gasoline, and from which they would expand into plastics, chemicals, and pesticides. Standard Oil, later Amoco, operated a leaded gasoline oil refinery on the banks of the North Platte River in my hometown of Casper, Wyoming. The refinery closed in 1993. People lost their jobs. An enormous steel wall was driven into the ground to stop chemical seepage into the river. The severance taxes from oil, mineral and gas extraction across the state afforded me and my peers a quality public school education, but also made us feel beholden to these industries. It is hard to name the ways we internalize the market volatility of the extractive boom and bust economy. People play in the river now, gathering on its banks to make new memories.