De Profundis

De Profundis


Installation at ACLIM! – Agency for Climate Imaginary! OFF-Biennale Budapest

A.P.A. Gallery, Budapest

curated by xtro realm

textile, wood, plastic, paper

photo: Dávid Bíró

Csilla Nagy is preoccupied with making the invisible visible in De Profundis (Out of the depths), which she does by exploring the visual research methods of exploiting fossil fuels. What is visually unrepresented or “invisible” can really be understood as a synonym for the “unknown”. Visual depiction suggests a position of power: that which is revealed, can be explored, recorded, possessed, or even destroyed.

Visualising data is a defining tool of our time, where accessing and assessing information suggests a position of privilege. A prerequisite for the efficient production of oil is the possession of datasets. Oil exploration is undertaken with a software that assists in geological surveying, providing a 3D depiction of geological formations and the liquid hydrocarbons accumulating between them. The image formed – a visual abstraction generated from the data – becomes an aesthetic surplus, which turns into a spectacle. Nagy’s work appropriates this visuality, while it deals with fossil capitalist ambitions critically. The extremities of depicting the invisible provide a good illustration of how production is turned into an aesthetic experience.

Since it was first discovered, oil – like other resources that are exploited from underneath the surface of the Earth – has been imbued with different layers of interpretation. The role that humans have paired with crude oil have turned it into an actor that is weighed by contradictions, an inorganic demon, while it has become inscribed into culture, religion, the workings of the economy, and relations of power. Dualist religions have identified the subterranean as underworldly, hellish, the home of evil. Everything that originates from underground carries the stigma of this perspective: miners and those producing crude oil cater to such odious powers.

Then again, the figures of mythological and religious belief systems have materialised, since the greenhouse gas emissions combusted into the atmosphere from fossil fuels have turned into a true global threat.

In a number of cultures, people have set traps for invisible powers or sought to keep them away from themselves and their living-spaces. By naming and depicting the demons, communities attempted to confine and curtail nefarious activities. De Profundis by Nagy does not only thematize petroleum products, but uses these as a medium: a polyester textile conveys and appropriates the aesthetic of data visualisation. The plastic objects included in the installation represent the counter-charms that provide protection from hexes, taking on a contemporary form of the ancient tools used against harmful beings.