April 22 - July 31, 2011
All That Is Solid Melts into Air is a two-channel video installation with images screened on opposite walls of a room. In the projected images the exploitation of Nigerian oil resources creates the occasion for a contrast of cultures and beliefs.
One screen features images shot in the Niger delta, showing impoverished villagers and militants of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), which has taken up arms against both the foreign oil corporations that extract and export oil from their territory and a government that does not distribute the proceeds it receives from the oil companies to its people. The oil industry has polluted the water, destroying the livelihood of the delta's fishing-based communities, and the people remain poor. The guerillas are shown preparing themselves for battle and asking for blessings from Egbisu, their god of justice and war, who they believe protects them from bullets. On the opposite screen are traders at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, the largest commodities exchange in the world, who speculate on oil and other commodity futures. The material commodities themselves, as well as the conditions in which they are produced, are completely alien to this financial nerve center, which focuses solely on imagined future value.
Through its composition and editing, Boulos' video subtly underscores the similarities as well as the differences between these two groups at opposite ends of the oil "pipeline." Members of each group appear in costume, perform ritualized actions, and whip themselves into frenzies: one in the name of justice, the other in the name of profit. Through this juxtaposition, Boulos highlights the metaphysical abstraction that underlies each group's perspective on a material entity: oil. The title of the work comes from a quote by Karl Marx: "All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses, his real conditions of life, and his relations with his kind."
Exhibition Organization & Support
Focus Gallery: Mark Boulos is organized by Pérez Art Museum and curated by Peter Boswell, assistant director for programs. It is supported by donations to PAMM's Annual Exhibition Fund.