“Was not their mistake once more bred of the life of slavery that they had been living?—a life which was always looking upon everything, except mankind, animate and inanimate—‘nature,’ as people used to call it—as one thing, and mankind as another, it was natural to people thinking in this way, that they should try to make ‘nature’ their slave, since they thought ‘nature’ was something outside them” — William Morris

Friday, March 30, 2012


Marina Zurkow has excelled herself with this exhibition at DiverseWorks Artspace, which was very kindly opened early for me on my final day in Houston yesterday.

Necrocracy is oil, about oil. Like medieval flags in a banqueting hall you are greeted in the main hall by a host of gigantic banners made of a durable plastic flag material. They depict the things made of oil, which are many, strange and various.

Just outside the hall, these rather disturbingly short beings in yellow fluorescent hazard suits and black visors greet you. Are they aliens? Mutated future humans? Children? Children aliens? And so on.

Right inside, an animation depicts a friendly carbon atom who introduces himself as such, to be joined by a growingly overwhelming chorus of colleague atoms. The sound of this crew is quite quite threatening.

In an antechapel like space to the side, rows of car seats welcome you to sit and watch plastic bags ascending into wherever from a pool of oil, or a tar sand, or a polluted pond, or a pit of death, and so forth. Mournful ambient electronica washes around this space.

Ecology without Nature sits along with my essay “The Mesh” and various other texts in another side room, which includes various kinds of textured plastic.

In a space off to the side, a related piece takes you on a dizzying journey through the soil and rock as you join an animated drill bit. The child–aliens beckon you to watch the videos which are embedded in reflective cubes that hang from the ceiling. A kaleidoscopic journey through Earth ensues.

There are so many other wonders and horrors here that I'll have to stop for now but I took some pictures and will add them here soon.

The kind curators wanted to shoot photos of me looking at the work, which I was happy to do. But on exiting, I wished I'd posed for them with my head in my hands, unable to take it all in—cos that's how I felt. Zurkow has confronted us with reality and it's sad, ugly and outrageous—and yet since it's not a withering vilification, it works its way in under your skin very powerfully. 

Oh this is so going in Hyperobjects.

1 comment:

Z said...

"I wished I'd posed for them with my head in my hands, unable to take it all in" Great idea for a series of portraits!