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Beatrice: Transition Under Petrocapitalism

18 June – 30 September

Featuring works by Tanja Engelberts, Oliver Ressler, and Sue Jane Taylor, “Beatrice: Transition Under Petrocapitalism” draws its title from the Beatrice Oil Field, located less than 20 miles off the coast of Helmsdale and visible from land. Recently decommissioned, the site was converted in 2018 into Scotland’s largest operational offshore wind farm. With the addition of wind turbines, Beatrice is a post-industrial scar that embodies the challenges of energy transition, including the crucial question of whether an economy deeply rooted in Petrocapitalism—the form of capital accumulation founded on the extraction, distribution, and consumption of petroleum—can effectively shift towards renewables. Through paintings, drawings, moving images, diaries, and research, the artists investigate the ecological, social, and economic implications of the evolution of the fossil fuel industry, looking at how the logic of capitalism is dragging extractivism onward to the point of no return.

The exhibition showcases artefacts from the oil industry, part of Timespan’s collection, as well as Taylor’s personal collection. Additionally, a dedicated section delves into the institutional history of Timespan, highlighting the significant role BritOil played in the organisation’s establishment in 1986. This historical connection is visually represented through the original Timespan logo, now serving as the exhibition’s logo. Designed by Penny Woodley, artist and former board member of Timespan, the logo incorporates Beatrice’s profile and several symbolic elements that embody the essence of Helmsdale, including the North Sea, a standing stone, and a fish. Since its inception, the oil industry has utilised its economic support for art and culture as a means to exert control and influence over collective narratives, dismissing potential oppositions.

Through photographs, videos, and diaries Tanja Engelberts (The Netherlands, 1987), reflects on affective entanglement towards the post-industrial landscape left by the oil and gas industry. Her video Decom (2021) is shot in one of the few European decommissioning yards where oil and gas platforms “come to die”, questioning their fate, from the disposal of materials to their future. The artist presents the publication Forgotten Seas (2023), a photographic exploration of her archive produced over six years of research across the North Sea.

In Carbon and Captivity (2020), Oliver Ressler (Austria, 1970) delves into ‘carbon capture and storage’ (also known as CCS), a procedure—or better a technofix—that promises to trap carbon dioxide emissions from the oil refinery process.Shot in the Technology Centre Mongstad in Norway Ressler’s video documentary  reveals how misleading promises of this technology are delaying necessary decarbonisation and deepening our dependence on fossil fuels.

Over the course of thirty years, Sue Jane Taylor has created a visual record of the rise and fall of oil and gas production in the North Sea, from the Scottish oil boom to its decommissioning programme, and the transition towards renewable energy and wind farms. In the exhibition Taylor presents a series of drawings and paintings spanning from 2006 to present day, portraying the humans, tools, machineries commodified by the corporations, validating their presence, voices and existence. Taylor also presents the video Beatrice Voices from across the Moray Firth (2018). Shot three months before Beatrice’s decommissioning, the video documents the working life within the North Sea oil and gas industry.

Tanja Engelberts born (1987) Deventer, NL lives and works in The Hague (NL).In 2021, she completed her two-year residency at the Rijksakademie van Beeldende Kunsten, Amsterdam. For the past years she has worked on several projects related to the fossil fuel industry and in particular how energy production shapes our landscape.  

Oliver Ressler produces installations, projects in public space, and films on economics, democracy, climate breakdown, forms of resistance and social alternatives. He participated in the biennials in Taipei (2008), Lyon (2009), Gyumri (2012), Venice (2013), Athens (2013, 2015), Quebec (2014), Jeju (2017), Kyiv (2017), Gothenburg (2019), and at Documenta 14, Kassel, 2017

Sue Jane Taylor studied fine art at Gray’s School of Art, Slade School of Fine Art, London, and Konst Academie, Stockholm and she is an Honorary Fellow of UHI (University of the Highlands and Islands). In her work, she raises questions about the relationship between art, the environment and industry. She recently completed a residency at Port of Nigg, Eastern Highlands of Scotland. She has exhibited nationally and internationally and is represented by Brown’s Gallery Tain/Inverness, Scotland.

Beatrice: Transition Under Petrocapitalism is the first exhibition part of Timespan’s larger programme of research Coastal Commons: Beyond North Sea Extractivism which explores ways of reimagining our relationship with natural resources and energy production, engaging with the impacts of the climate crisis at a global and local level focusing on Highlands coastal communities.