Miriam Sentler      

Fossil Fuel Mnemosyne at Prospects - Art Rotterdam, 2022. Photo credits: Aad Hoogendoorn

Fossil Fuel Mnemosyne

This work was developed during residencies at USF Verftet (Bergen, Norway) and Knockvologan Studies (Isle of Mull, Hebrides). the project is generously funded by Mondrian Fund, Stichting Stokroos and Prince Bernhard Culture Fund. 

Thanks to Lotte van Dijk, Silvia van de Kruijs, Marie Ilse Bourlanges, Elena Khurtova, Alix Chauvet, Marcos Kueh, Billie van Katwijk, Niekolaas Johannes Lekkerkerk, Sergi Rusca, Johann Gustavsson, Gabija Seiliute.


(2021/2022) Tapestry, 350 x 175 cm. Jacquard weave, merino wool and cotton. Produced in collaboration with the TextileLab, the professional workplace of the Textielmuseum Tilburg.

Fossil Fuel Mnemosyne researches the historical, present-day and future connections between oil and myth in aquatic fossil fuel landscapes. By undertaking residencies close to the oil industry’s working places, ecological facts, personal stories and local myths encountered in the landscapes are used to explore the commercial use of both oil and myth.
Throughout history, oil was closely connected to mythology. Shark and whale oil was uses to predict storms and to heal wounds, respiratory illness and infertility during the last centuries. These same animals were mistaken for sea monsters many times, creating the moral bases for their extensive hunt. Nowadays, oil is connected to myth through the branding techniques of the Norwegian oil industry, naming platforms in the North Sea and Baltic Sea after mythical heroes from the Bible and Saga, and the mythical proportions of the industrial objects which are erected by the industry. When platform Troll (472m) was moved into the North Sea from Bergen, it was the tallest structure ever moved by humans.

The research of Fossil Fuel Mnemosyne resulted in a rich tapestry, developed in collaboration with the TextileLab in Tilburg. The motivation to work with tapestry originates in the cultural meaning of this medium. Tapestries were often commissioned by powerful state organs, kings and national industries, and depicted historical stories and myths which were politically or socially relevant for the time and context in which they were produced. Through their symbolical imagery, they also appealed to the illiterate and children. Fossil Fuel Mnemosyne uses these qualities of the medium within a contemporary context. Different myths, used by the oil industry within its branding, are re-contextualized in relation to the climate crisis and the energy transition. Exemplary, the tapestry displays how goat Heidrun gives endless oil to the fallen heroes of Walhalla, Odin travels with the speed of light over the North-Sea on its ship Sleipnir and Asgard is threatened by a drilling pipe entering the mythological underworld.

The tapestry is especially colorful and playful, standing in sheer contrast with the often depressing and grim imagery of works depicting the fossil fuel industry and climate change. Through this appealing imagery it serves a communication tool between parents and children, who will be faced with the daunting prospects of our modern way of living. The tapestry is currently translated into a children book, in collaboration with different school children and graphic designer Alix Chauvet.

Fossil Fuel Mnemosyne at Prospects - Art Rotterdam, 2022. Photo credits: Aad Hoogendoorn

Tapestry, merino wool and cotton, jacquard weave, 350 x 175 cm

Production at the TextileLab, the professional working place of the Textile Museum Tilburg, detail

Pastel drawing, design tapestry, 350 x 175 cm