Bringing together 17 artists and collectives from the region and beyond, ‘Crude explores oil as an agent of social, cultural and economic transformation across the Middle East and North Africa, as well as a driver of geo-political upheaval. Oil has been a trigger for misguided colonial adventures, wars and coups; a catalyst for nation building, modernisation and development; and a cause of terrible ecological disasters. Oil, and its attendant industries and economies, has produced a spectrum of representations—architectures and infrastructures, documents and records, plans and photographs, and image and artifacts—that bring alive these complex histories. Much of the historical material lies buried in various national, corporate and media archives.

This exhibition features the works of contemporary artists that engage with the oil industry’s murky archives and histories, narrating an alternate and episodic material history of modernity in the region. The exhibition also includes works that reflect on some of the specific technologies and materialities that oil has enabled—from drills bits and automobiles to synthetic petroleum products—and their longstanding sociological, cultural and environmental effects across the region.