Aberdeen Artist Ditches Modern Trappings To Cope Without Petrol

By Graham Spicer | 19 September 2005
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Shows a photo of a young man lighting a wood fire on a patch of sand

Duncan in action during a recent oil-free trip. Photo courtesy Peacock Visual Arts

Mere rumours of an impending fuel shortage have been known to send motorists rushing for the petrol pumps in a spree of panic buying. We seem to have become increasingly dependent on oil, not just for transport, but in almost every walk of life.

Plastic food packaging is oil-based, synthetic fibres come from the black stuff too – in fact the list of modern products using petrochemicals is staggering. Petrochemicals and their by-products are taken for granted by many, and it is hard to imagine what life would be like without them.

Artist Duncan Hart is going further than that and is leaving such modern trappings behind as he heads to Newmachar near Aberdeen for a totally petroleum-free camping trip from September 20-24 2005.

Trainers and fleece jumpers will be ditched in favour of woollen clothing, including some fetching knitted trousers. There will be no neat little camping stove and all his food (organically grown of course) will be cooked in clay pots over an open fire.

Water will have to be collected from a well and he is even leaving his glasses at home. He might be allowed a spot of cooking oil, but anything petrol-based is definitely off the packing list.

Duncan explained his motivation behind the project: “I have lived all my life in Aberdeen - my parents came to live in the city as a result of the oil industry.

Shows a photo of the inside of a shelter made out of branches with a sleeping bag and rug in it

Duncan has lived in natural shelters and will even ditch his glasses in a bid to cope without petrol-based products. Photo courtesy Peacock Visual Arts

“I have always leaned towards the aims of the environmental movement though these feelings have often been tempered by the knowledge that I personally use and rely on so many things that the oil industry provides.”

The trip to Newmachar is the latest instalment in Duncan’s Petro-dependent? project, where he has been attempting to eliminate his use of petrochemicals in experiments lasting from three days to three weeks.

“This project is to experience the impact of living without petrochemical products first hand rather than merely adding my voice to the clamour for change,” added Duncan.

It is part of a wider venture called Oil and the City, a long-term arts project organised by Aberdeen-based groups UrbanNovember and Peacock Visual Arts, aimed at examining the impact of the oil industry on the city.

The oil crisis of the 1970s led to a huge increase in the price of oil and exploitation of the recently discovered North Sea oil fields suddenly became a bankable option. Aberdeen flourished as the centre of the North Sea oil industry, bringing jobs and financing construction throughout the city.

The results of Duncan’s exploits, in the form of photos and journal entries, will be on display at Aberdeen’s Maritime Museum from October 22 2005 to November 6 2005, along with other Oil and the City projects.

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