BRUTUS Art Space in Rotterdam says goodbye to oil age
The First Art Newspaper on the Net    Established in 1996 Thursday, July 25, 2024

BRUTUS Art Space in Rotterdam says goodbye to oil age
Still from Yuri Ancarani, The Challenge, 2016. HD Film, colour and sound, 69 minutes. Courtesy the artist and Galerie Isabella Bortolozzi, Berlin.

ROTTERDAM.- The Petromelancholia exhibition – curated by Alexander Klose of research group ‘Beauty of Oil’, is nowon show at BRUTUS in Rotterdam. Across the 6,000 m2 complex, Petromelancholia deals with the enormous consequences of life after oil, the scope of which many people are, as yet, unaware of. In contrast to the many exhibitions spreading visions of doom or stating the obvious about the climate crisis, Petromelancholia contemplates the legacy of the oil era and the new meaning that past will undoubtedly acquire in the future.

Petromelancholia consists of existing and new installations, videos, sculptures and other works by artists from around the globe including Monira Al Qadiri, Yuri Ancarani, Alessandro Balteo-Yazbeck, Kevin van Braak and Ipeh Nur, Diann Bauer, Tanja Engelberts, Christoph Girardet, Rumiko Hagiwara, Aaditi Joshi, Alain Resnais, Sanaz Sohrabi and Rachel Youn. Simultaneously, BRUTUS Base will host Petromelancholia Disco Inferno, a gigantic installation by Atelier Van Lieshout. Both exhibitions will be on show until 19 November 2023.

An impending cultural and mental revolution

What did crude oil give us, materially and primarily culturally, and what will disappear or change? Petromelancholia recognises that the energy transition’s consequences go much further than merely switching from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources. If humanity wants to have any chance of survival then we have to leave the petro-modernist era behind. However, this doesn’t just entail bidding farewell to oil. We will also have to say goodbye to all the aspects of culture enabled by that commodity, how we use and have structured the world, what we do and how we experience those activities; in other words, a cultural and mental revolution that will drastically change our lives, thought processes and imaginations.

Various perspectives

Such a complex phenomenon can only be properly examined from a variety of perspectives. Art is the ‘master discipline’ when it comes to anticipating and navigating change. This is why Petromelancholia brings together 30 contemporary artists from various cultural backgrounds and different generations who focus on, among other things, the petrochemical corridor in the Mississippi Delta (Imani Jacqueline Brown), Shell’s history in Indonesia (Kevin van Braak and Ipeh Nur), ´the clashing of elements´ which occurs as part of the energy transition (Chto Delat), the nostalgia surrounding the industrial aesthetics of oil platforms (Gunhild Vatn, Tanja Engelberts), OPEC – which started out as a utopian union of non-western oil states (Sanaz Sohrabi) and the imagination of the oil industry in cinema (Christoph Girardet).

Port location

BRUTUS – situated as it is in Rotterdam’s port – makes the perfect location for Petromelancholia. There are few places where the energy transition’s impact will be more noticeable than here. This makes the site the most suitable place for critical self-reflection with a dose of melancholy and nostalgia. The exhibition reflects an urgency that has never been felt so keenly before.

BRUTUS Art Space

Petromelancholia featuring:
Yuri Ancarani, Rowan van As, Alessandro Balteo-Yazbeck, Diann Bauer, Uwe Belz, Vanessa Billy, Kevin van Braak & Ipeh Nur, Imani Jacqueline Brown, Andrew Castrucci, Chto Delat, Timo Demollin, Tanja Engelberts, Christoph Girardet, Rumiko Hagiwara, Bernhard Hopfengärtner, Aaditi Joshi, Leonhard Müllner & Robin Klengel, Hugo Niebeling, Monira Al Qadiri, Alain Resnais, Konstantin Schimanowski, Miriam Sentler, Sanaz Sohrabi, Johannes Steendam, Gunhild Vatn, Jan Eric Visser, Rachel Youn and Marina Zurkow.

Santiago Sierra
In conjunction with the Petromelancholia exhibition, BRUTUS Art Space will present a solo exhibition by Santiago Sierra. This exhibition of three works is a pilot exploring the options for a more extensive collaboration between Santiago Sierra and BRUTUS Art Space. The works on show are: his most recent work THE MAELSTRÖM, Serekunda, The Gambia, May 2023, PAINTINGS MADE BY A FIRE BREATHER, Toreo de Cuatro Caminos, Naucalpam, Mexico, October 2003 and 245 m3 Stommeln Synagogue, Pulheim, Germany. March 2006


Disco Inferno by Atelier Van Lieshout embodies the Zeitgeist of institutionalised, mechanised seduction, gluttony and intentional destruction. Every process and development that is too slow, abstract or immense for the quotidian, individual consciousness to observe can be seen, heard and smelled here. Disco Inferno is akin to an enormous engine room, every part of which is interconnected. The installation seems industrious and industrial, yet ultimately no utility can be found whatsoever.

Side Programme

From 19 October – 12 November 2023, site-specific theatre group Onderwater Producties will perform the play Escaperoom Reality at Brutus. A hallucinatory performance about escapism that explores the boundary between imagination and reality. Disco Inferno, Atelier van Lieshout’s latest artwork, constitutes the perfect backdrop for this much-discussed performance for Petromelancholia. Info & tickets:

BRUTUS, Artist Driven playground

With its rolling programme, BRUTUS, consisting of BRUTUS Art Space and BRUTUS Base, is the largest contemporary art institution in the Netherlands. The place to view confrontational, unsettling and stimulating art. BRUTUS offers artists the time, space and freedom to experiment on a grand scale. Works by major names in the international art world alternate with that of up-and-coming as well as yet to be discovered talent. Every artistic discipline is represented from sculpture to performance, as well as both new and traditional media. BRUTUS was founded in 2008 by Joep van Lieshout as AVL Mundo and will continue independently from 2023 onwards.

BRUTUS can be found at Keileweg 10 – 18, amid the transformative, creative port area. The location has a total of 6,000 m2 of raw, unpolished exhibition space. Alongside industrial exhibition spaces of varying sizes, the former port complex is also home to the BRUTUS Lab that provides facilities for residencies and various studios as well as the freely accessible sculpture garden BRUTUS Garden that features work by Atelier Van Lieshout, among others.

BRUTUS Art Space
September 2nd, 2023 - November 19th, 2023

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