When some New Yorkers look at the Empire State Building they see an emblem of the city we live in. When other New Yorkers look at it, they see just another tower in midtown. But when New Yorker and artist Dan Tesene looks at the skyscraper, he sees petroleum.
In a new installation at Devotion Gallery in Brooklyn, Tesene has created a model of the midtown skyline from 28th Street through 36th Street using a 3-dimensional printer, gypsum powder, and glue. The sculpture’s meaning lies in the frame of reference it provides for statistics that have seemed daunting to Tesene since he moved to New York about three years ago and began working at a mold making fabrication shop in Hell’s Kitchen. Then, he was frequently working with petrochemicals and discovered that worldwide petroleum consumption was at about 84 million barrels per day. To wrap his head around the immensity of that number and help others do so, too, he decided to represent it visually.
“I would walk out every day from work and see the Empire State Building in the distance,” said Tesene. Then it occurred to him that the landmark could be used to show New Yorkers what global oil consumption looks like. Every day, the world consumes enough oil to fill a structure 13 times larger than the Empire State Building.
Tesene imagined and fashioned that structure as a narrow, towering black rectangular prism and juxtaposed it against miniature versions of New York’s most famous skyscrapers. His installation contains that and another sculpture, also made out of high density gypsum. This second sculpture, an oil tanker large enough to carry 450,000 metric tons of oil, sits on a nearby shelf. The 96” tanker is a mutation of a crude oil carrier that would, if it were life-size, be large enough to transport all of the oil moved by water every day.
“We live in a time of over-stimulation, where people are bombarded by abstract information which leads to apathy and carelessness. My objective is to sift through statistics and abstract information to give a clear picture of the context in which we live,” said the artist. “The oil industry, in all its dimensions, is at the top of the list to be scrutinized.”
Lessons of Excess: A Data Visualization of the Consumption of Oil in the World against the Scale of Midtown will be on display at Devotion Gallery at 54 Maujer Street in Williamsburg, Brooklyn until October 10th.