Critics’ Picks

Oliver Ressler, Carbon and Captivity, 2020, 4K video, color, sound, 33 minutes.

Oliver Ressler, Carbon and Captivity, 2020, 4K video, color, sound, 33 minutes.


Oliver Ressler

Markeveien 4B
April 16–May 31, 2020

Like a litmus test for dispossession, the Covid-19 pandemic has exposed the cracks in the surface of the market. From reproductive labor to international logistical networks, what hitherto was recondite for those not immediately subject to subsumption now appears as a multiplicity of naked emperors. The biggest of them all, the oil industry, has recently experienced an immense drop in value due to mounting debts. What remains to be resolved post-Covid-19 is who will cover the loss, and at what cost.

Oliver Ressler’s recent video essay Carbon and Captivity, 2020, currently on view here and screening online through e-flux Video & Film, offers a possible answer. Closely studying the speculative market behind carbon capture and storage—a developing technology that sequesters carbon dioxide from the air—Ressler interweaves interviews, essayistic storytelling, and drone footage to prove what any journalist could discover with a few Google searches, though no one seems to have bothered to do so: This industry is funded by the oil market, and we’re all caught in its loop.

While Ressler’s extensive videographic work in and around the nearby Technology Centre Mongstad doesn’t add much to this surreal ouroboros except a large budget, his use of photography when examining this context––the world’s largest facility for testing carbon-capture technologies on an industrial scale––activates a core dilemma within today’s contemporary art market. If photography develops in close relation to modern industry, which runs on carbon, mustn’t we rethink our mediums of representation when examining these matters to actually contest them? I think so.