The Iridescent Effect. Oil Mediations in Visual Culture

Hindelang, Laura (26 October 2020). The Iridescent Effect. Oil Mediations in Visual Culture (Unpublished). In: Norwegen University of Science and Technology, Institute of Social Anthropology, Lecture Series. NTNU, Trondheim, Norwegen. 26.10.2020.

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Fossil fuels have driven the twentieth century global history like no other energy source. In the general absence of crude (as multisensory raw material) in everyday life, almost anything offers itself today to visually represent fossil energy and to symbolize living in petro-modernity as a result of the global normalization of fossil fuel dependence. To certain extent, it thus appears paradox to speak of an ontological invisibility of fossil energy, for which I focus on the uneven mediations of fossil energy’s in/visibility at play.

The talk examines oil mediations, meaning oil-related imagery, media, and iconographies in visual culture, through which it examines the ways in which the representational and spatial disengagement between the oil field, the refinery, and the highway has taken place in the twentieth century. Oil mediations have worked to promote consumptive practices, fossil fueled lifestyles, and scopic regimes while they have been simultaneously disguising extractive practices and socio-ecological repercussions of fossil energy burning. Petroleum’s contribution to modernity is ambiguous, both pleasure and pain, for which I conceptualize it as “iridescent.”

The talk asks: How was petroleum (as converted energy as well as the natural source from which to produce such power) mediated in visual culture in the twentieth century in a global perspective? Does energy visibility in visual culture (e.g., in form of documentary photographs or infrastructural motifs) equals awareness of burning fossil fuels? How can we arrive at a refined understanding of petroleum`s visibility mediated in visual culture in relation to the material and visual conditions of crude oil?

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)


06 Faculty of Humanities > Department of Art and Cultural Studies > Institute of Art History > History of Architecture and Historic Monuments
06 Faculty of Humanities > Department of Art and Cultural Studies > Institute of Art History

UniBE Contributor:

Hindelang, Laura


700 Arts
700 Arts > 720 Architecture
700 Arts > 740 Drawing & decorative arts
700 Arts > 750 Painting
700 Arts > 770 Photography & computer art




Laura Katharina Hindelang

Date Deposited:

14 May 2021 08:40

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 15:49


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