We are petroleum

street performance, Artwalk, Bellingham, December 2015
participatory performance: laminated printed scripts, polyester blankets, quilted banner, throw pillows.

caribou is our life, its our tools… its our clothing , its our food,… and its our shelter…
so everything, caribou, we do caribou dance, we do caribou song, we do caribou story
caribou is everything to us, that make us who we are,”
~ Sarah James (Sarah James: Indigenous Peoples and Climate Change, 2009)


petroleum is our life, its our tools its our clothing , its our food, and its our shelter.
so everything , petroleum, we do petroleum dance, we do petroleum song, we do petroleum story
petroleum is everything to us, that make us who we are.”

~ we are petroleum emulation

“We are Petroleum” is a practices-as-research participatory performance experiment created to research how North Americans conceptualize their relationships with petroleum. During the performance participants, read aloud emulations of Gwich’in diplomatic testimony about being caribou people. In the emulations, the text is the same except the word “caribou” has been replaced with “petroleum.” The Gwich’in are an indigenous people whose homelands are in northeastern Alaska and northwestern Canada. For decades, they have been preventing oil and gas development in the calving grounds of the Porcupine Caribou herd. The herd sustains them and their identity.
My essay about “we are petroleum people” was published in Tabula Rasa #26 in Spanish.

outdoor performance, Waldron Island, August 2016

I was trying to make/stage/facilitate an interaction that triggers for participants something like my experiences researching petroleum enactments and enchantments. I am germinating and cultivating a petroleum mode of attention that notices petroleum in everything and considers its ontological importance to living, feeling and thinking in North America. A mode of attention triggered by listening to indigenous diplomatic statements about the ontological importance of substantive relations with non-human kin. “we are petroleum” comes out of listening, being moved by, and than imitating the cosmological statements of Gwich’in people staving off oil and gas development in the Arctic. The performance draw the participants into experiencing reflection about petroleum entanglement. The participants are invited to consider living and dying in a petroleum world through Gwich’n syntax of living and dying in caribou world. It triggers considering relational enactments of human life in terms of parallel but different nonhuman relations.

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