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Energy Humanities

Alessandro Balteo-Yazbeck, Last Oil Barrel, (date postponed)


Contemporary Venezuelan artists are working to dispel the myth of the Magical State to help envision alternative post-oil futures that will be more secure and sustainable. The hybrid art practice of Alessandro Balteo-Yazbeck reveals the dynamic connections between socio-political phenomena, collective knowledge, and propaganda as a political strategy in modern history and aesthetics, which is particularly lucid when centring its attention on crude oil’s global apparatus.

His Last Oil Barrel, (date postponed), is a decade long and ongoing performance. It offers a miniature reproduction of a standard barrel of oil made out of sustainable wood stained with ink. It is sold as an unnumbered, unlimited edition with its price pegged to the Oil Future Index. Its miniature size points to notions of peak oil and exhaustion of reserves, the last drops of oil as a rare collectible “seed”. However, this is a feigned barrel; rather than a literal to-scale reproduction made of steel and bitumen, Balteo-Yazbeck’s biodegradable representation deceptively dismantles the illusion of everlasting oil abundance, tying its enduring political, social, and cultural value to the unpredictable fluctuations of global financial markets.

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