Elia Vargas - Solo Exhibition
Opening Reception: June 30th, 2017, 6pm
Performances: July 15th and 29th
Lubricated Substates is a solo exhibition with Elia Vargas featuring his expansive body of work investigating light as material, earth infrastructures, oil materialities, earth energies, and global transmissions. This culmination of his previous works and research will be presented alongside new works, including the US premiere of the video "Signal Works".
Lubricated Substrates - Earth Infrastructure, Light and the Oil Ontology
Crude oil is media. Oil’s infrastructure and history inform new media formulation and this media materiality is ontological. New media is a framework to organize meaning. New media contextualizes the flow of knowledge that shapes the meaning of human culture. New media is always now–a coping mechanism of the present. It digests the past to metabolize tomorrow’s ecologies, speculating tomorrow from the infrastructure of yesterday. New media is, very literally, shaped by old media. Lubricated Substrates: Earth Infrastructure, Light and the Oil Ontology explores the ways in which oil and light have always been linked. At its industrial birth, oil was commercially extracted to replace whale fat used for light production. Oil is latent solar energy (light) transduction via millions of years of organic decay. Railroads and oil pipelines laid the foundation for transportation of oil energy sources, chronologically reinforcing path dependency. Old infrastructure is latent energy for the production of new infrastructure. The movement and organization of light shape meaning.
Lubricated Substrates explores crude oil as a network of ideological formulation, enabling certain pathways of enunciation. In this work, network meaning is revealed through what architecture theorist Keller Easterling calls its disposition–not what it does, but how it does it and what its tendencies are–tracing cultural infrastructure that is enabled, activated, or even manufactured by material flows of crude oil. This work reconnects the materiality of oil–specifically the hydrocarbon paraffin–with its early history steeped in mysticism, mythology, and medicine. This history reveals an entangled natureculture soaked in oil flow. Manipulating my crude oil source, the product Pennsylvania Crude Oil Scalp Treatment, invented by Edgar Cayce, father of the New Age movement, I trace oil extraction at the first U.S. commercial oil well, Drake Oil Well. In 1859 crude oil was used as a medicinal ointment but shifted dramatically upon successful commercial extraction, initiating a global pursuit of oil drilling and fissuring two binary embodiments: carbon energy source and mystical healing.
- Artist Statement by Elia Vargas
Elia Vargas is an Oakland based artist and curator. He works across multiple mediums, such as video, sound, and projection. He is co-founder and co-curator of the Living Room Light Exchange, a monthly salon on new media art and digital culture; half of improvisational modular synthesis duo systemritual; board member of Mediate Art Group; and a PhD student in Film and Digital Media at UC Santa Cruz. He is currently investigating the materiality of crude oil and media transmission in relationship to human time scales, temporalities, and flows.
Vargas recently presented work in Hong Kong as part of ISEA 2016, Kochi, India, as part of Video Vortex 2017, and across the United States. His recent writing has appeared in Vice Motherboard, and he has given numerous talks on elemental media, projection, and the production of meaning. His video work and projection installations have been featured throughout the country, and widely on the Internet, including Vice, NPR, and the Zero1 Biennial. He has exhibited work with the Manchester International Festival, de Young Museum, Gray Area for the Arts, Artist Television Access, Experience Music Project Seattle, Creators Project, the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, the San Francisco Museum of Art and Design, and others. Vargas collaborates widely and often, past collaborators include Bjork, Vincent Moon, and many others. He holds an MFA from San Francisco State University.