The Rig, 2023, 4K video, courtesy of the artist
Holly Veselka is a conceptual artist who uses emerging technologies as both medium and subject to highlight issues of land, biodiversity, and climate change. She is one of the two artists selected for XCHANGE, a residency and exchange opportunity exploring the extraction economy and the environment, developed by Shetland Arts and The McNay Art Museum in Texas.
Veselka visited Shetland in May 2022 and became interested in the decommissioning of the Ninian Northern offshore platform at Dales Voe and the marine life that had grown on the rig during its 40 years of operation. Surprised by the amount of life that had lived on the structure, she found a symbol of hope. Visually, petrochemical infrastructure is often used as a symbol of human ingenuity, energy demand, climate change, or environmental degradation. But to Veselka, the ecosystem living on the rig was a different type of symbol—one that represents life’s resilience.
Thinking about the opposing themes of energy, environmental destruction, and resilience, Veselka created this 3D animated video to experimentally represent the many possible functions and metaphors of an oil rig. She eventually hopes to reuse an offshore platform as a public artwork that intentionally creates habitat for pelagic birds and marine life.
To hear more about the artist’s experience in Shetland, please listen to her interview with Chris Bonfiglioli on the Coastal Knowledge Podcast of the Young Academy of Scotland: youngacademyofscotland.org.uk/news/podcast-episode-9-coastal-climate-change-art
XCHANGE is funded by The British Council and Creative Scotland with support from Art Fund (UK) and Association of Art Museum Curators (US). More information on the project can be found on the Shetland Arts website.