Upcoming Conference: Oil and Media

March 2, 2015

In October 2015, the Department for Media Studies/Section for Cinema Studies at Stockholm University will host a two-day conference organized by Marina Dahlquist and Patrick Vonderau, entitled “Drilling through the Screen: Modern Imaginaries and the Oil Industry.” Call follows below.


Drilling through the Screen: Modern Imaginaries and the Oil Industry

 Call for Papers

 Stockholm, 1-2 October, 2015, organized by

Cinema Studies, Stockholm University

The history of cinema is inextricably embedded in 20th century’s hydrocarbon culture. In its dependence on fossil fuels and their photochemical derivatives, and thus on resources and technologies exploited by the first Industrial Revolution, cinema came to play a vital part in the production of industrial modernity. Celluloid, being composed of petroleum byproducts, offered experiences in the “form of captured, organized, and released light-heat-energy-movement” (Adrian J. Ivakhiv), forms that were closely linked to what Nadia Boziak has termed the “hydrocarbon imagination.” While recent eco-criticism has spurred an interest in dissecting both the conventional aesthetic forms such celluloid imaginations may take, and the dirty footprint they leave behind, the more direct relation of cinema to the history of petroleum extraction has remained largely uncharted. With the exception of a few pioneering studies, as those conducted by Mona Damluij or Rudmer Canjels, the corollary of the relationship between moving images and petroleum has not been recognized. This conference invites to explore this relationship through the lens of sponsored film.

Since the early 1920s, oil extracting companies such as Standard Oil, Royal Dutch/Shell, ConocoPhilips, or Statoil have been producing and circulating moving images for various purposes including research and training, safety, process observation, or promotion. Such industrial and sponsored films include educationals, commercials, and documentaries that formed part of a larger cultural project to transform the image of oil exploitation, creating media interfaces that would allow corporations to coordinate their goals with broader cultural and societal concerns. Falling outside of the domain of conventional cinema, such films firmly belong to an emerging canon of nontheatrical film and media that has developed over the past decade in the wake of numerous publications. Such publications and public fora include, among others, the edited volumes Useful Cinema (2011) and Films that Work: Industrial Film and the Productivity of Media (2009), three special issues of Film History, a SCMS scholarly interest group, and the Orphans Film Festival. Contributing to this burgeoning field of nontheatrical film scholarship, we invite research proposals bearing on the intersecting cultural histories of oil extraction and media history by looking closely at moving image imaginaries of the oil industry, from the earliest origins or “spills” in the 20th century to today’s post-industrial “petromelancholia.”

How has film been used to promote petroleum extraction? How petroleum-specific are the aesthetics and rhetorics of oil-related non-theatrical films? How has the oil crisis and consecutive shifts to alternative energy resources affected how audiovisual media are used for mediating oil? To what extent did oil-related film and video activities contribute to stimulate national genre production in fields such as documentary or advertising? How was gender and social context negotiated in educational as well as oil promoting films? Which were the programming praxis for this wide conglomerate of films and genres? Which was the expected audience?

We encourage participants to incorporate examples of interesting moving images as part of their presentations. Each presenters will have 20 minutes followed by a discussion. The papers presented at the conference will be considered for publication. The conference is open to archivists and scholars from all disciplines. Please send a title, a 250-400 word abstract outlining your paper ideas, a list of 2-5 references, and a brief CV via e-mail to:

marina.dahlquist@ims.su.se or patrick.vonderau@ims.su.se

no later than 1 April 2015.