As you walk by the side of the road at night, the flickering flames of oil lamps shimmer from roadside petrol stalls. The light glows through the precipitous ochre content of the petrol bottles waiting in line to be sold, luring travellers for a refill. The petrol bottles are encased in a mud shell in order to protect the liquid contents from vaporisation due to the heat of the sun during the day.
The core, the innermost, the essence. That which remains, when something is reduced to its very essence. The abstract photos of the Dark Atlas series represent energy — privately manufactured petrol (essence) sold in the countries above Nigeria, on the street, hand-to-hand, one canister and a bottle at a time.
Mud casing on the bottle surfaces resemble aerial images or maps, providing material for the imagination, giving you a sense of uncharted realities and unnamed places. The round bottles glow in the dark of night like planets, in a tangible manifestation of an energy, abstract and unattainable. I look at the picture of the world, and to what extent we are shaping it. I look at the picture of the ongoing environmental catastrophe and its fuels; victims and oils that feed, lubricate and prepare us for a future that is beyond our imagination.
The heart of the globe, Kpayo — poor quality product, dirt, pirated goods.
A small breath in the bottle, a toxic and singular presence, an all-powerful and concrete building material for reality. Kpayo — locally distilled from crude oil taken from multinational corporations operating on river Niger Delta, sold on almost every street in West Africa. Our beating heart and life’s very flame, a mirror with no boundaries drawn on maps or continents.
In Dark Atlas the various forms of fossil energy are entangled to other forms of energy — which, in a manner similar to these petrol bottles, act as casings, which contain and transmit an energy and power stored within them. These images portray the reality of the energy industry as a contract, in which oil, an essence hidden within the earth and weaved into the fabric of society, reflects our existence and beliefs, becomes individual and visible.
The real and tangible omnipresence of energy provides a perspective on our dependence on energy — what is possible, and what requires to be reorganised.