Oil barrels are transformed into sculptures and unique works of art in the CRUDIFICATION
exhibition which documents the curse of oil.
The following article comes to us from Karen Dabrowski:
The exhibition at London’s P21 Gallery brings together a collective of artists: nine from Iraq and two from the United Kingdom (Ala Bashir, Andrew Smith, Bassim Mehdi, Hani Mazhar, Jalal Alwan, Mariwan Jalal, Mohammed Ali Dawood, Raid Houby, Richard Janes, Soodad Al-Naib and Zina Al-Jauari) to creatively explore some of the ways in which oil has ruined our humanity.
This is especially the case for those living in nations with an abundance of oil, like the peoples of the Middle East, who have been subjected to foreign wars, invasion, occupation, authoritarianism, sanctions, shock and awe – the list goes on.
Apart from one of the installations with a pink balloon which represents the dreams of a child standing up to announce hope, all the works portray pain, suffering, crushed human beings, and human beings portrayed as the victims and slaves of oil. The oil barrels evoke the immense power of energy and the mannequins symbolise what this deadly force has done to human beings, not to mention the environment.
The first installation Slaves outside the entrance to the gallery by Andrew Smith was inspired by Michaelangelo’s slave works. The figure is crafted from polystyrene, a product of the oil industry embodying our enslavement to the power of oil. “The figure is large, larger than the barrel. However despite out obvious strength, we are still mere slaves to the power of oil,” Smith, a monumental mason turned sculptor explains.
Mohammed Ali Dawood’s installation Double Standards expresses his frustration about how some individuals are abusing oil and natural resources to gain power, using the media to achieve their goals and objectives. He wants to communicate how :”they tend to use different faces other than their true face to hide the reality which is why poor people are becoming poorer and the rich are becoming richer.”
Richard Janes real size oil barrel in an untitled work, shows three bronze figures bound by the barrel sections supporting it but trapped, representing three world: first, second and third. “While this classification and definition of development and political division is contentious, in my work it is meant to be inclusive. All the world is reliant, beggared and trapped by oil,” Janes said.
The final installation Descend Into the Abyss is on the steps leading out of the gallery. Raid Houby explains that in an ideal world, because humans are precious the environment should serve our needs. But while energy is one of those assets that supposedly serve human needs, humans have become the cheapest assets, assaulted for the sake of energy.
“In my vision energy becomes a burden on humans instead of lighting our path for a dignified life. In my artwork I want to highlight the heavy burden of energy that is threatening the existence of nations. Focusing on the relations between energy and humans, I envision the human stripped of all worth, while only oil is valued.”
The video art and mixed media installation by Hani Mazhar explores how nature, history, physics and chemistry all coalesce to create this strange and cruel machine that he has named with three letters O.I.L. He points out that it is no coincidence that the machine’s name starts with the “O” as its wheels spin and grind our bones; nor is it a coincidence that humans wrote the first line of human history and yet leave it to this machine to write the final line with its black ink.”
Curator Sarah Marusek described her time in Iran another country plundered by imperial powers. “I remember seeing a sign that read, ‘This earth is borrowed from our children’. I was later told that there is a similar saying in Native American cultures, as there is in many other ageless cultures, which is why these cultures are still alive today – still resisting against the colonial-imperial project. So when are we going to finally stop and ask, what kind of future will our children be inheriting as a result of the world we have created today?”
The P21 Gallery is an independent London-based charitable organisation established to promote contemporary Middle Eastern and Arab art and culture. The two-story venue in central London has been recently designed by the award winning Egyptian architect, Professor Abdul Halim Ibrahim, as a place where contemporary artistic statements are experienced and appreciated by a global artistic community. The facilities at P21 are planned to maximise the potential of contemporary art as a discourse, through multimedia exhibition spaces on two levels with supporting facilities for public functions and workshops for training and education. In addition, the P21 Gallery hosts a reference library, meeting rooms, a lecture hall as well as a specialised café and provides for a much-needed meeting place in the heart of London.
Exhibition continues until 2nd November
P21 Gallery, 21 Charlton Street, London NW1 1JD Tues – Fri 12pm – 6pm