The End of Oil

A project of SEA (Social-Environmental Aesthetics), The End of Oil was an exhibition of photography, prints, videos, installations and new media that addressed human dependence on oil and other fossil fuels; the ramifications that this dependency had on the future of the environment and of global geopolitics; and the recent push towards viable alternative energy resources.

In July 2008, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Companies (OPEC) announced that the price per barrel of oil had climbed above $130. About five months later, in December 2008, the New York Times reported that oil had fallen below $40 a barrel, less than a third of the July 2008 price. In the first six months of 2009, oil prices seem to have steadied around $55 a barrel. These fluctuating oil prices are evidence of the instability of global oil markets and reminders of our urgent need to develop alternative fuels and forms of energy.

The works in this exhibition drew attention to and investigated the violent conflicts (such as in Nigeria, Burma and Sudan) and negative environmental effects that resulted from mining and drilling; the politicization of the oil industry; carbon-footprinting; and renewable energy options, such as vegetable and electric-powered cars, geothermal energy, and solar power. The End of Oil did not prophesize a dystopian future, but looked critically at the way in which we use and generate energy, encouraging a dialogue on this issue for the benefit of future generations.

SEA and The End of Oil conceived by Papo Colo

The End of Oil curated by Herb Tam and Lauren Rosati.


Khalil Chishtee; Louisa Conrad; Robert Ladislas Derr; Dominic Gagnon; Ed Kashi; Matt Kenyon; Michael Mandiberg; Andrei Molodkin; Jo Syz


7:30 – 9pm: SEA Poetry Series, No. 2
Following the inaugural reading of this series, which brought Maine-based poet Jonathan Skinner to Exit Art, poet Marcella Durand read a selection of her poems and discussed her work in relation to The End of Oil. Q & A and reception to follow. Conceived and organized by E.J. McAdams, poet and Associate Director of Philanthropy at The Nature Conservancy, New York City. Free. Cash bar.

Marcella Durand’s recent books are Traffic & Weather (Futurepoem, 2008), AREA (Belladonna, 2008), and The Anatomy of Oil (Belladonna, 2005). Other books include Western Capital Rhapsodies, City of Ports, and Lapsus Linguae. Her poems and essays have appeared in Conjunctions, The Canary, Denver Quarterly, Chain, The Poker, Verse, NYFA Current, and other journals. She has given talks on the intersections of poetry and ecology at Kelly Writers House, Small Press Traffic, Dactyl Foundation, Stella Adler Studio of Acting, and other venues. Currently, she is translating Michèle Métail’s Les horizons du sol / Earth’s Horizons, a history of the geological formation of Marseille written within a Oulipian formal constraint; a section of her translation appeared last year in The Nation.

Marcella Durand is a 2009 Poetry Artist Fellowship recipientof the New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA). This presentation is co-sponsored by Artists & Audiences Exchange, a NYFA public program.

The End of Oil Screening Series consisted of films that explored topics such as peak oil; the impact of coal mining and oil drilling; dwindling oil resources; and the effect of this environmental crisis on the economy. More information coming soon.
Saturdays at 4pm.
$5 Suggested Donation.

JUNE 20 and 27
The Great Squeeze (2008)
Director/Producer: Christophe Fauchere

This film explores our current ecological and economic crisis, stemming from our dependence on cheap and abundant energy to the point that our demands for natural resources far exceed the earth’s capacity to sustain us. The Great Squeeze examines the way in which the extraction and consumption of such resources has impacted our climate, ecosystem and civilization itself.

JULY 11 and 18
A Crude Awakening: The Oil Crash (2006)
Director/Producer: Basil Gelpke and Ray McCormack

By illustrating that our civilization’s addiction to oil puts it on a collision course with geology, this film comes to the startling but logical conclusion that our industrial society, built on cheap and readily available oil, must be completely re-imagined. Featuring interviews with field experts and on-location shots at oil fields, the film asks questions and offers solutions regarding the most important economic and environmental issue of our time: the looming peak of the world’s oil supply.

The Power of Communtiy: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil (2006)
Director: Faith Morgan

Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Cuba’s economy suffered, with oil imports cut by 50% and food by 80%. This film shows how the Cuban people consequently transitioned from a highly mechanized, industrial agricultural system to using organic farming methods, local, urban gardens, and principles of permaculture. As the only country to have lived through Peak Oil, the film offers alternative options to a reliance on fossil fuels.

SEA (Social-Environmental Aesthetics)

SEA is a unique endeavor that presents a diverse multimedia exhibition program and permanent archive of artworks that address social and environmental concerns. SEA will assemble artists, activists, scientists and scholars to address environmental issues through presentations of visual art, performances, panels and lecture series that will communicate international activities concerning environmental and social activism. SEA will occupy a permanent space in Exit Underground, a 3000 square-foot, multi-media performance, film and exhibition venue underneath Exit Art’s main gallery space. The SEA archive will be a permanent archive of information, images and videos that will be a continuous source for upcoming exhibitions and projects. Central to SEA’s mission is to provide a vehicle through which the public can be made aware of socially- and environmentally-engaged work, and to provide a forum for collaboration between artists, scientists, activists, scholars and the public. SEA functions as an initiative where individuals can join together in dialogue about issues that affect our daily lives.


This exhibition was supported by the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Bloomberg LP, Carnegie Corporation, Jerome Foundation, New York City Department of Cultural Affairs and City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn, O’Grady Foundation, Pollock-Krasner Foundation, Public Funds from the New York State Council on the Arts, a State Agency, Starry Night Fund at The Tides Foundation, Exit Art’s Board of Directors and our members.