Steve Rowell

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© 2020 Stéve Röwëll

American Oil Volume I

This is a collection of field recordings I made while working on 2 exhibits with The Center for Land Use Interpretation in 2008 and 2009. Texas Oil and Urban Crude were both photographic, regional exhibits about oil: its industry, the landscape, the links between places and peoples across the nation and the world. While quite a lot of our fieldwork was spent above the land - in helicopters and small planes, shooting aerials of refineries, I did find find myself on the ground at some of the sites, listening.

Whether we like it or not this is the age of oil. In America, it started in 1860 at a small creek in Pennsylvania, then erupted as an industry in 1901 with a geyser of crude in east Texas and became a fact of life when entire cities were designed around the automobile. These recordings trace a path across America from the historic well in Titusville Pennsylvania to oil fields across Texas and urban pump jacks in Los Angeles, at natural science museums, refineries, auto-salvage yards and abandoned car dealerships in Houston during tropical storms, pine forests where boomtowns once stood, petrochemical plants, liquid cargo rail yards, and the largest petroleum port in the world. One of the last tracks you'll hear was recorded at a gas station in upstate New York, a lesser known part of this history where people were pumping oil from beneath their backyards in 2008 when the price was high enough to make it worth their while. This program is an arc across a nation's history as well as its geography, moving through geologic time and space.

Broadcasted on Herbst Radio (Berlin) February 03, 2010
Broadcasted on Resonance 104.4 FM (London) February 14, 2010
Podcasted on Framework (Võru, Estonia) February 14, 2010

Some of the photographs to be published in the booklet of the CD pressing of American Oil Vol. I include landscapes and aerials. However, here are a selection of photographs from the layout of the many museums dedicated to the history of oil: