Oil | Publication and Exhibition 2023 -2024

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Open Call: 

The A. M. Qattan Foundation has set its sights on a new project for 2023 and 2024, delving into the complex topic of ‘oil’ and its unique relevance to the Question of Palestine. Anticipating a publication in 2023 followed by an exhibition in the latter half of 2024, the Foundation is actively seeking artists, researchers or collectives for partnerships on the research and production of this project. Beginning in mid-May 2023, the chosen artists will work in close collaboration with the Foundation on the publication. At the start of next year, the artists will be invited to utilize community participatory methods to bring their research to life in the form of an exhibition set to make its debut in the second half of 2024.


Oil politics have left an indelible mark on the Middle East, particularly concerning the Question of Palestine and the struggle for Palestinian liberation. The Oil Crisis of 1973, sparked by OPEC's decision to cut off oil exports to countries supporting Israel during the October War, had an immense impact on the global economy. The embargo not only led to skyrocketed oil prices but also resulted in a seismic shift in the balance of power in the region, prompting global powers to intervene in the Middle East through wars, economic policies, and surgical political reformation to maintain needed oil supply at desirable prices. This geopolitical upheaval had lasting effects, reshaping the political landscape of the region and perpetuating conflicts that persist to this day.


On the local level, the Israeli colonial regime has been unlawfully exploiting natural resources by granting permits to energy companies to engage in exploration and drilling activities in areas such as the Meged-5 oil field near Rantis village, northwest of Ramallah, and other drilling explorations in southern Golan Heights. British Gas signed a $4 billion agreement with the Israeli government in 2000 to extract natural gas from offshore fields close to Gaza, ignoring the rights of Palestinians and bolstering Israel's occupation of Palestinian territories. This issue highlights the intricate entanglement of geopolitical interests and financial incentives that shape the politics of oil and gas in the Middle East, despite the daily grave impact on Palestinian human rights, the environment and right of self-determination.


The ongoing conflict between Ukraine and Russia has also cast a shadow over the regional stability, especially after the recent developments concerning the so-called Abraham peace accords. Russia has long relied on Ukraine as a crucial transit route for its oil and gas exports to Europe, and the conflict has led to disruptions in the energy supply chain. This has created an opportunity for other players in the region, such as Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), to become major players in the energy markets. As Israel and the UAE deepen their cooperation in the oil and gas sector, they are also forging closer ties in other areas, such as security and technology. This new alliance has the potential to shift the balance of power in the Middle East and could ultimately impact the Question of Palestine.


Although the geopolitical aspect of ‘oil’ is undoubtedly a critical factor guiding and shaping this project, it is by no means the sole framework at play. The project is equally invested in exploring the social, cultural, historical, and artistic elements that underpin this theme and its relationship to Palestine and the broader region. To this end, the section Themes and Literature below outlines some of the literature and topics that the project is keen to explore further, both in the context of the exhibition and the accompanying publication.

The publication 

The publication will follow the form and design of The Whole Earth Catalogue, a publication that emerged as a symbol of the counterculture during the late 1960s and early 1970s. Conceived by a group of visionary individuals, including Stewart Brand, the publication embodied a shared desire for self-reliance and sustainable living. This anthology of ideas, tools, and resources offered readers a wealth of knowledge on topics such as community building, ecology, and technology. The Whole Earth Catalogue was a ground-breaking work, celebrated for its profound impact on the era's environmental activism and for inspiring a generation of individuals to embrace a do-it-yourself (DIY) ethos.

The Whole Earth Catalogue publication can be accessed by clicking here

The following is a preliminary outline of the catalogue, which is subject to change during the process of research and conversations with the artists:


Oil Sites (Palestine)


  • Gaza
  • Naqab
  • Dead Sea
  • West Bank


Politics of Oil


  • NAM
  • OPEC
  • 1972 Oil Crisis
  • War on Terrorism
  • Gulf War
  • Russia Ukraine
  • Abraham treaties


A Brief History of Oil


  • Ottoman Oil Company
  • International excavations (German, British, American) 
  • IPC
  • Israel and petroleum




  • Geology of Palestine Map
  • Asphalt and oil seepages
  • large fault blocks & structural domes
  • Basalt intrusions and exposure of lower beds by uplift
  • Types of rocks indicating petroleum


Petroleum Products


  • Gasses
  • Liquid fuels
  • Lubricants 
  • Paraffin wax
  • Slack wax
  • Sulphur
  • Bulk tar 
  • Asphalt
  • Petroleum coke
  • Petrochemicals 




  • Toxicity (Toxic compounds, Greenhouse gases, Microplastics)
  • Air pollution (Exhaust emissions, Vapor intrusion)
  • Acid rain
  • Oil spills
  • Waste oil
  • Climate change
  • Ocean acidification
  • Diseases (Melanoma, Skin Cancer, Lung Cancer, Liver Cancer and Hepatitis, Leukaemia)




  • Labour
  • Labour Unions
  • Legislations and laws on Oil




  • Pipelines
  • Pump Stations
  • Refineries
  • Shipping

Additional topics


  • Market
  • Art Works
  • Diaries

Exhibition in 2024

The following is a preliminary approach toward realizing the exhibition that will take place in the second half of 2024. The final direction may be altered somewhat based on the outcomes of research and conversation with participating artists.


The upcoming exhibition is adopting a slow participatory artmaking approach that aims to create art installations that invite the community to collaborate with the artist in producing art at a slower pace. This technique emphasizes a more contemplative and meaningful approach to foster a deeper connection between artist, community and artwork, encouraging the community to be more deliberate and reflective. The art created through this approach can take on various forms, such as collaborative installations. For example, participants may contribute small pieces of material to a larger artwork over an extended period of time. The objective of this approach is to encourage viewers to slow down, become present in the moment, and establish a more profound and genuine relationship with the artwork and those around them. The curatorial team will engage in discussions with each of the artists involved in the exhibition to explore and further establish this approach. These conversations will take place before the beginning of the exhibition.


The upcoming exhibition will revolve around the participating artists’ jointly produced publication. To ensure that the content of their art interventions aligns with the exhibition's theme and direction, the artists will gather for a series of collective workshops that will act as a platform for artists to present their contributions to the publication and engage in discussions around critical questions arising from their research. The workshops will act as a unifying element, weaving together the various art interventions and creating a dialogue between the different spaces, artworks, and objects displayed in the exhibition.


The exhibition space will be divided into eight roughly equal sections with a joint learning space for public engagement activities, as shown in the accompanying image. Each artist/ collective will be assigned one section. The exhibition will be built in a slow incremental process, that will be open to the public. Every time that people visit the space, they will witness the exhibition taking shape with new additions. Some collective conversations or workshops will be held inside the exhibition while people are visiting, giving the public the chance to participate in these conversations and reflect on the given topics that are innate to the creation of the art interventions.


Themes and Literature

This bibliography has been assembled by the Curatorial Team for further reading.

The documents can be accessed by clicking HERE.   


  • Mitchell, Timothy (2011) Carbon Democracy: Political Power in the Age of Oil, Verso, London. The central thesis of the book is that the rise of oil and coal as the primary sources of energy in the twentieth century transformed the nature of political power by allowing for the emergence of new forms of democracy. Mitchell argues that the abundance of cheap energy provided by fossil fuels enabled a greater degree of political participation and allowed ordinary citizens to demand more from their governments. However, he also suggests that this same abundance of energy has led to a concentration of power in the hands of those who control its production and distribution, creating a feedback loop in which energy and politics are inextricably linked. The book also illustrates how the abundance of oil reserves in the Middle East has allowed some governments to maintain authoritarian regimes by using their control over oil revenues to suppress dissent and maintain control over their populations.


  • Hanieh, Adam (2013) Lineages of Revolt: Issues of Contemporary Capitalism in the Middle East, Haymarket Books, Chicago,. The book offers a fresh perspective on the relationship between the petrochemical industry and the Gulf States' political economy. Hanieh argues that petrochemicals, not oil, are the real driver of the Gulf's industrialization and that this industry has played a critical role in the development of the Gulf petro-states. The chapter analyses the political, economic and social impact of the petrochemical industry, exploring its effect on the Gulf States' development strategies, labour markets and social structures.


  • Daher, Rami (2013) ‘Neoliberal urban transformations in the Arab city: Meta-narratives, urban disparities and the emergence of consumerist utopias and geographies of inequalities in Amman’, in Urban Environment, vol. 7, pp. 99-115. The article argues that Gulf oil surplus after September 11 resulted in significant changes in the urban fabric of Arab capitals, such as the Abdali project in Amman, Solidere project in Beirut, Bouregreg in Rabat, and Dream City in Cairo. These gentrified urban renewal projects led to an increased social inequality and exclusion as well as destruction or urban heritage. Similarly in Palestine, this article is essential in understanding the inception of the Palestinian Investment Fund and genealogy of Rawabi.


  • Vali, Murtaza (2018) Crude – exhibition catalogue, Jameel Arts Center, Dubai.  Exhibiting artists: Latif Al Ani, Manal AlDowayan, Alessandro Balteo-Yazbeck, Media Farzin, GCC (Khalid Al Gharaballi, Nanu Al-Hamad, Abdullah Al-Mutairi, Fatima Al Qadiri, Aziz Al Qatami, Barrak Alzaid, Amal Khalaf), Raja’a Khalid, Lydia Ourahmane, Houshang Pezeshknia, Monira Al Qadiri, Hassan Sharif, Wael Shawky, Nasrin Tabatabai and Babak Afrassiabi, Rayyane Tabet, Hajra Waheed, Michael John Whelan, Lantian Xie and Ala Younis. The catalogue identifies artworks that dichotomize contemporary issues on the oil industry. The discussion of how arts approached the multilayered predicaments of oil is very important for the publication. 


  • Spaskovska, L (2021) '“Crude” alliance – economic decolonization and oil power in the non-aligned world’, Contemporary European History, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 1-16.  The article reflects broadly on the developmental hierarchies and inner divides between the oil producing and non-oil producing countries within the non-aligned movement. The ‘energy crises’ of the 1970s had a dramatic impact on non-OPEC developing countries and sowed long-lasting rifts in the nonaligned/developing world. 


  • Jabber, Paul (1977) ‘Petrodollars, Arms Trade, and the Pattern of Major Conflicts’, in Oil, the Arab-Israel Dispute, and the Industrial World Horizons of Crisis, edited by J. C. Hurewitz, 2nd ed. Colorado: Westview Press Boulder, p. 149. The topic in question focuses on the flow of arms to the Middle East in relation to the multinational investments and revenues of Middle East oil-producing countries.


  • Iraq Petroleum Company (1934) ‘The Construction of the Iraq-Mediterranean Pipe-Line, Iraq: Iraq Petroleum Company’. This is a historical document that unravels the British colonial role in planning and laying out the infrastructure of the petroleum industry in the region, especially connecting oil wells in Iraq with the Mediterranean shoreline.  The focus is on the history of the Kirkuk-Haifa pipeline and its construction through Jordan.   


  • مسحال، سعيد (2013) بين الثورة والنفط وأعمدة الشر السبعة، عمان: مؤسسة الناشر. مذكرات حول العمالة الفلسطينية في شركات استخراج النفط في الكويت والسعودية ودول الخليج، إبان بداية تنظيم الثورة الفلسطينية في ستينيات القرن المنصرم. 


  • سليمان، عاطف (1968) إسرائيل والنفط، سلسلة الدراسات الفلسطينية، بيروت: منظمة التحرير – مركز الأبحاث. يتمحور الكتاب حول قضية اهتمام إسرائيل بالتنقيب واستخراج النفط من فلسطين وجميع جوانب هذا الموضوع الاقتصادية والسياسية والجيولوجية.


Other Topics


  • The Meged-5 oil well on the lands of Rantis, operated by Givot Olam Oil Ltd. The drilling contravenes the Oslo accords, which call for co-operation between Israel and Palestine in the field of energy. Likewise, drilling in 'no man's land' along the Green Line border is a breach of all relevant international treaties in which neither party may extract without the other's consent.


  • After the signature of the normalization agreements between Israel and the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, Israel and Saudi Arabia announced a plan to build a pipeline between the two countries in order to export Saudi oil to Europe. The Eilat Ashkelon Pipeline Company (EAPC) signed a memorandum of understanding with the UAE to transport oil to Eilat’s port, and from there through the Eilat-Ashkelon pipeline to Europe. In both plans, exporting via Israel significantly reduces the cost of transporting the oil to Europe by avoiding Egypt’s Suez Canal and introduces a new geopolitical reality to the region.


  • The 1973 oil crisis  the first oil crisis  began in October 1973 when the members of the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries led by Saudi Arabia proclaimed an oil embargo. The embargo was targeted at nations that had supported Israel during the  October War. The initial nations targeted were Canada, Japan, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the United States with the embargo also later extended to Portugal, Rhodesia and South Africa. By the end of the embargo in March 1974, the price of oil had risen nearly 300 percent, from US $3 per barrel ($19/m3) to nearly $12 per barrel ($75/m3) globally; US prices were significantly higher. The embargo caused an oil crisis, or ‘shock’, with many short- and long-term effects on global politics and the global economy. It was later called the ‘first oil shock’, followed by another oil crisis in 1979


  • Diaries of Arab and Palestinian oil workers at the Gulf oil wells and petroleum companies during the oil boom last century.   


  • Sami Taha Hamran and his role with the Palestine Arab Workers’ Society (PAWS) which was the first and oldest Arab labour union in Palestine under the British Mandate. The role played by PAWS as well as the Arab labour union movement in general in defending the rights of petroleum workers in the Gulf. Al-Ittihad newspaper was a site for many critical articles on the workers conditions and rights in the oil sector.