Goethe institute – June


In Baku, ten international artists are probing the curses and blessings of oil. For millennia, natural gas and oil have been part of the national culture in Azerbaijan. An exhibition by the Goethe Center Baku is now devoted to this history

By Simone Reber

Azerbaijan is the country where industrial oil drilling was invented. By the late nineteenth century, fortune hunters came to Baku in search of the black gold, but also bankers and industrialists like the Rothschilds and the Nobel brothers. Today, oil and gas are mainly extracted offshore. But the old Russian pumps still set the pace in the suburbs of the city.


The exhibition “From Prometheus to Petroleum” in the Kapellhaus next to the German church in Baku builds on these ancient myths. But curators Asli Samadova and Alfons Hug, the director of the Goethe-Center Baku, expand the perspective beyond national borders by selecting ten international artists.

In the centre of the hall, Marco Montiel-Soto from Venezuela has set up an historic wooden derrick. His hometown of Maracaibo is presently being destroyed by the monoculture of petroleum. Since the fast money has marginalised all other sectors of the economy, residents often have to queue for hours for petrol and groceries. Nigerian artist George Osodi draws an even darker picture in his gloomy slide show. Corruption and armed gangs are channelling the money from oil exports into the hands of the few in Nigeria. The plundered landscape looks like a smoking inferno.

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