Marina Zurkow: Necrocracy

Commissioned by DiverseWorks for Fotofest 2012, Necrocracy is an immersive art exhibition exploring nature and petrochemical production that combines video animation, drawings and sculpture by Brooklyn-based artist Marina Zurkow. In the space, the public is invited to explore a labyrinth-like landscape, populated with an array of petroleum-based artworks and a series of new animated video works. A collateral materials lab and an online survey provide space for audiences to share their own ideas around issues of oil and landscape.

The three new video works, HydrocarbonsThe Thirsty Bird and Mesocosm (Wink, TX)visualize interactions between humans and nature that arise out of oil drilling in West Texas.  Throughout the space, large banner-size drawings of oil-derived products will be interspersed with child-sized replicas of Dupont’s Tychem suits designed to mitigate ecological disasters.

In January 2011, DiverseWorks supported a two-week research trip for Zurkow to the Permian Basin. From Marfa to Midland, the artist met with geologists, naturalists, cattlemen, oilmen, and activists. She traversed the high southern plains of the Llano Estacado¾the ecosystem stretching from Lubbock to the Edwards Plateau – a landscape so subtle most people call it The Big Empty. During the trip she became hyper-aware of several things: “We-all of us who live on the USA grid-are soaking in petroleum and we wouldn’t know how to live, feed, shelter, clothe, or express ourselves without oil-based products.”

In the Permian Period 250 million years ago, the geological riches of the area were formed, as marine microorganisms accumulated in sediments on the floor of a vast saline sea. Over millions of years, the seas dried out, the landmass itself moved more than 2,000 miles into its present location and these creatures transmuted into hydrocarbons. In the past century, we have pumped over 100 billion barrels of oil and a hundred trillion cubic feet of gas from these Texas hydrocarbon reservoirs. The exhibit asks us to think about how we disturb, worship and are dominated by these long-dead beings: Necrocracy or the rule of the dead.

About the Artist

Marina Zurkow makes media works about humans and their relationships to animals, plants and the weather. These reconfigured and inclusive notions of our environment have taken the form of animated videos, customized multi-screen computer pieces, installations, prints, and participatory public art works. By turns humorous and mesmerizing, they question the relevance of Enlightenment ideals we still predominantly live by.Nature has long been a stage upon which we project ourselves, making ourselves other. The series “Crossing the Waters” focused on climate change: A contemplation on catastrophe, it pictured ways in which we imagine nature within us, and nature without us. The series “Friends and Enemies” (which includes the Mesocosm works and Heraldic Crests for Invasive Species) mines the intersection of bias, inclusion, and kinship in our relations with other species. This body of work includes special dinners and tastings, lectures, and printed materials.Since 2000, Zurkow has exhibited at The Sundance Film Festival, The Rotterdam Film Festival, The Seoul Media City Biennial, Ars Electronica, Creative Time, The Kitchen, The Walker Art Center, The National Museum for Women in the Arts, and Eyebeam, and other venues. She is a 2011 Guggenheim Fellow, and has been a NYFA Fellow, a Rockefeller New Media Fellow, and a Creative Capital grantee. Zurkow is on faculty at NYU’s Interactive Technology Program (ITP), and lives in Brooklyn, New York. For more information on Marina Zurkow, please visit


DiverseWorks is a VAN Partner of the Visual Arts Network (VAN).  This project is made possible in part through support from the Visual Artists Network Exhibition Residency, which is a program of the National Performance Network.  Major contributors are the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, the Joan Mitchell Foundation, the Ford Foundation and the Nathan Cummings Foundation.  For more information:

Necrocracy received additional support from the Alice Kleberg Reynolds Foundation.

Curated by Diane Barber and Sixto Wagan.

On View

March 17 - April 21, 2012


1117 East Freeway
Houston, TX  77002


Marina Zurkow