Cloud Points: A Derivative of Crude Illumination

2016
Elia Vargas

Cloud Points: A Derivative of Crude Illumination is a site specific paraffin feedback loop, crude oil transmission pipeline. Installed during a Wave Farm artist residency, Cloud Points explores alternative oil ontologies, crude oil as media, and the entangled history of crude oil as medicinal spiritual ointment as well as material energy source derived from latent solar radiation. Paraffin waxy build up in oil pipelines reduces flow capacity, yet the paraffin hydrocarbon was also used as leverage by both mystics and industrialists to argue for crude oil extraction due to a shared biology with human blood flow. As a result, paraffin both enabled and sabotaged human oil extraction and pipeline growth. Cloud Points points towards the poetics of crude oil flow both as part of the signal path of the electromagnetic spectrum, thus a carrier wave of information, and as early technology infrastructure that shapes much of the physical and ideological infrastructure of the contemporary landscape.

The installation is a fully functioning crude oil pipeline feedback system, transmitting crude oil through 100+ feet of steel pipe while using audio signal as an index to measure the cloud point of paraffin waxy build up. A hydrophone in the oil pit transmits audio signal to the Wave Farm FM radio transmitter which returns the signal via a piezo element transducer which agitates the oil pipeline, thus altering the state of the paraffin flow.