“An oil well named Macondo: the Gulf of Mexico and the Infrastructural Turn”
III Session of the permanent seminar “Images (of art) and political ecology”, with María Zazzarino.
In April 2010, a British Petroleum well blew up in the Gulf of Mexico. Situated at more than 1,5000 kilometers under the sea, the
well spilled over 30,000 liters of crude oil into the Caribbean Sea, causing what is considered to be the worst oil catastrophe to
date. A minor but nevertheless telling detail of this catastrophe was BP’s decision to name the oil well Maconodo. Accidental or
not, the name nevertheless resonates with the long history of extractive practices in the Americas. From the framework of the
imaginaries of extraction, the Macondo spill portions the Deepwater Horizon disaster not as a “blowout,” as the press dubbed it,
but as the spectacularized version of the long history of dispossession and slow violence that fossil capital exerts in the region.
Taking the Deepwater Horizon disaster as a point of departure, this seminar concerns the long history of fossil capitalism in
southern Louisiana and it pays attention to petroleum’s visual culture and its contestations. It centers the visual production that
emerged with the Deepwater Horizon spill in order to examine the infrastructural turn both in media studies and in artistic
production. On the one hand, the infrastructural turn in artistic production interrogates the conceptualization of infrastructure as a
neutral technical object. On the other, it proposes recuperative geo-logics that center black and indigenous experiences to imagine
possible futures. Works considered in the seminar include Brenda Longfellow’s interactive documentary Offshore, Kate Orff’s
and Imani Jacqueline Brown‘s infrastructural works, and collages by visual artist and activist Monique Michelle Verdin.
The reading texts for the session can be found at these links: 1 and 2.
Those wishing to attend the seminar, which will take place at the Centro de Ciencias Humanas y Sociales (CSIC, c/ Albasanz, 26,
Madrid, room to be determined) on 22 March 2023 at 10am, should let us know via this contact form.
Maria Zazzarino is a PhD student and instructor in Comparative Literature at University of California – Santa Barbara. Her
research focuses on petroleum cultures in the wider Caribbean region.