Erica Kermani: =Well No1

=Well No. 1

Erica Kermani
[ United States ]

Édouard Glissant builds his language with rocks. I re-write histories with limestone and sandstone: reservoir rocks that hold dried up blood and wet petroleum deposits. We come from the rocks: “fossil fuels are forms of energy in which great quantities of space and time, as it were, have been compressed into a concentrated form.”

I call to the prehistories and to the mythologies that hold fractured landscapes beneath, what is now industrialized dust and wind. I find my place somewhere between the layers. Somewhere between imagination and memory. Somewhere between history and mythology. Somewhere between your traditions and my words. This is = Well No. 1.

= Well No. 1 is a series of videos, ritual performances, and infrastructural meditations that serve to reverse this history of commercial oil extraction as a practice in radical healing and transformative possibility.

In 1908, the British established Well No. 1 in Iran. This commercial oil discovery led to the creation of one of the largest oil companies, now BP, and launched the modern petroleum industry in Southwest Asia. The well acts as a symbol for the violent industrialization and imperialism led by Britain as well as France. Orientalism was key in justifying exploitation of labor and environment, cultural and spiritual erasure, and manipulation of Iranian political systems. = Well No. 1 places the oil well as a site of contestation. The sculpture displaces it from its origin to be interfered with or sabotaged. The oil well is both leading back into and emerging from limestone. The videos reclaim archive and enact ritual (burial, cleansing, mourning, and transference) as practices in resistance, sovereignty, and restoration. Since this oil was once a source for Zoroastrian fire temple ceremonies, as captured in Ferdowsi’s Shahnameh (Book of Kings), I attempt to restore its sacredness and cultural importance and our relationship to the Earth.

Drawing on my own experience as a first-generation Iranian-American, I implicate myself into this story to unearth what has brought me to this place in time and space. Françoise Vergès suggests in this racial capitalocene we must return to our beliefs and healing practices in relationship to Mother Earth. Transformative spiritual practice ties to critical action and political movement. We put back the oil and oppose the neo-liberal political arrangements made to put us in this position and have brought on an acceleration of extractionism, global conflict, and climate destruction.

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  • Medium: Single-Channel Video
  • Year Produced: 2018

Erica Kermani

Shadow Work Media

Erica Kermani (b. 1983, Los Angeles) is a Brooklyn-based transdisciplinary artist dedicated to movement building and collective liberation through art and media, technological sovereignty, and Iranian and Jewish metaphysics and mysticism. Her artwork utilizes scholarship, memory and archive to produce video, installation, and speculative fiction that interrogate and unsettle dominant narratives, towards healing of self, community, and Earth.  Erica has presented her work internationally at Mona Bismarck American Center (Paris), the Science Gallery Dublin, Musée des Arts Decoratif, the International Center of Photography Museum, MIX NYC, and Frameline. Erica serves as technologist and educator for Community Tech New York and as adjunct faculty at Parsons The New School where she teaches about ancestral and emerging technologies.  Erica is a worker-owner of the QTBIPOC- and immigrant-led cooperative Shadow Work Media.  Previously she organized the festival Radical Networks (2015-2019) which she co-founded.  She holds a BA in Visual Arts (Media/Computing) and Political Science at the University of California, San Diego and an MFA in Design and Technology from the Parsons School for Design (NYC/Paris).

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