Research / Staff

Sludge Architecture looks at the infrastructures of oil pits as metaphors for getting stuck in a petroleum-driven world developed through the relations of Modernity. Oil has become an inseparable element of our modern life, as if we are permanently stuck in conditions created by the petroleum industry and its (by-)products. By engaging with these troubled sites and situations, I seek to expand and work with the idea of Getting Stuck as a spatial and performative approach to the problem. Environmental crisis is intersectional, interconnecting environmental pollution to the issues of colonisation, segregation, racism, forced migration and systems of oppression and injustice. At this intersection, getting stuck refers not only to the out-of-control environmental and climate crisis, but also to the bodies that are stuck, exploited and dehumanized in various parts of this unbridled industry and its extended ecologies. In the struggle to free oneself from being stuck, one must start (un)knowing the existing possibilities, improvising other ways of moving and surviving in space.

This project is part of my larger research Decolonising Infrastructures: Making Architecture in an Ecological Era that aims to expand architecture as decolonising infrastructures and support structures by situating it in contested ecologies and troubled sites that are complicated by the forces of labour, migration, colonization, and the exploitation of natural resources. Sludge Architecture along with Those Planktons1 are two episodes of Oily Stories; a series of experiments in telling decolonising stories of oil. These stories are situated in ecologies shaped by oil, mostly in the Gulf region and in the Iranian context, and work with the materiality, history and politics of oil and its encounter with different materials, environments, structures, bodies and political forces. Sludge Architecture, starts from broken oil infrastructures, such as pipes and oil pits, and addresses failures and flaws in such infrastructures and the project of Modernity, as the raw material for envisioning a new world beyond petroleum.

1 Those Planktons was exhibited at All Art Now Lab in Stockholm in April 2021 as part of the curatorial project, Troubled Home, curated by Maryam Omrani. The exhibition contained two video installations and a series of drawings and texts that together made a performing ground for the planktons to speak and tell the stories of oil.

Oil infrastructure.
Sepideh Karami

Sludge Infrastructures: Sending oil back to the Earth.
Sepideh Karami

Planktons are protagonists in decolonising stories of oil.
From ‘Those Planktons’, an exhibition at All Art Now, Stockholm 2021.