STEVE ROWELL


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Midstream at Twilight
2016


Returned to Nature.
Gateway Hill, Syncrude Canada Ltd.
One of a handful of remediated land projects north of Fort McMurray, Alberta. The largest built structures on Earth are the retention dams that form massive, toxic lakes of tailings from tar sands mines. Overlooking this artificial sludgescape are replanted hills such as this, created by heaping piles of overburden from what used to be active mines, where, before the middle of the 20th century, ancient boreal forests stood for millions of years. Production still, March 2016.


Midstream at Twilight is a short film about dark ecology and the necessary death of an industry.


Through the aerial perspective of a drone, the film traces the liminal infrastructure of oil pipelines between its source in the tar sands of Canada's boreal forest to a landscape of refineries in the US Midwest. As the drone view continues to scan the prairies and rivers for signs of the further distribution of the toxic particulate refinery by-product: petroleum coke or 'petcoke' as it is known in the industry. After hovering above the corporate headquarters of Koch Industries, Inc., the largest dealer of petcoke in the US, the film concludes along the Pacific coast, at the port of Long Beach / Los Angeles, where petcoke is loaded onto tanker ships to be sent to markets in China where it is burned in power plants and converted into toxic plumes of carbon dioxide and sulfur dioxide. Following the northern jet stream, these pollutants return to North America and the feedback loop of climate change continues to spin out of control.

When viewed, Midstream at Twilight functions as a form of contextual direct action and as such, invokes a corporate death curse against a fossil fuel industry in decline.

What began in the 17th century will end in the 21st.

Premiered in August 2016 at the Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago.


MIDSTREAM:
the midstream sector of the petroleum industry, involving the transportation (by pipeline, rail, barge, oil tanker or truck), storage, and wholesale marketing of crude or refined petroleum products.

TWILIGHT:
a period or state of obscurity, ambiguity, or gradual decline.

ContactContact me for a link to view a review copy of the film

Drone aerial footage combined with ground static and moving photography.
Single channel color video with 4.1 channel audio
20 minutes
HD 1080p

Sampled & incidental music:

Henry Purcell, Drum Processional, Music for the Funeral of Queen Mary, 1695
performed by Benedict Hoffnung/Stephen Cleobury/King's College Choir, Cambridge, UK

Wendy Carlos and Rachel Elkind, Title Music from A Clockwork Orange, 1972
based on Henry Purcell, Music for the Funeral of Queen Mary, 1695

Made possible by a grant from the Museum of Contemporary Photography and the Natural Resources Defense Council.


Aerial dronecam perspective of the Flint Hills Resources MINNCAN oil pipeline as it cuts across the Mississippi River headwaters in northern Minnesota, between the White Earth and Leech Lake Indian Reservations. This pipeline carries upgraded bitumen from the tar sands in Alberta to the Flint Hills Pine Bend Oil Refinery near the Twin Cities, MN. Video still frame, February 2016.


An active Syncrude mine and tailings pond near Mildred Lake, Alberta. Production still, March 2016.


Interactive pipeline display at The Oil Sands Discovery Centre in Fort McMurray, Alberta. Production still, March 2016.