Mark Boulos. All That Is Solid Melts into Air. 2008. Two-channel video (color, sound), 15 min. Courtesy the artist and Galerie Diana Stigter, Amsterdam. © 2012 Mark Boulos

In his documentary video installations, Mark Boulos (born Boston, 1975) investigates the space between abstract concepts and material reality. Drawn to the extreme states of political militancy and religious ecstasy, Boulos examines beliefs espoused with such transcendent conviction that, for those who hold them, the impossible seems real.

Boulos’s two-channel video installation All That Is Solid Melts Into Air (2008) juxtaposes two communities at opposite ends of the world, each struggling to control petroleum. One video depicts floor brokers in the Chicago Mercantile Exchange trading petroleum contracts during the first days of the financial crisis in 2008. The other presents footage from the artist’s experience living with Nigerian fishermen, members of the militant organization Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), who live in one of the largest oil fields in the world. Fighting to alleviate the poverty of the population, the guerrilla group battles the exploitation and devastation of the natural environment. The violent conflict around oil in the Niger Delta has escalated over several decades, between the national government, which benefits from its contracts with international corporations, and local residents, who compete for the resource by seizing it directly from pipelines. For the brokers, on the other hand, who never see or touch the substance, oil is a virtual commodity with quasi-mystical properties. Inspired by the potential for a more equal distribution of the world’s wealth, Boulos has titled the installation after a passage from The Communist Manifesto (1848), by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, in which the authors condemn the capitalist system and its detrimental effects on the working class and social relations at large.

Organized by Cara Starke, former Assistant Curator, and Stephanie Weber, Curatorial Assistant, Department of Media and Performance Art.

The Elaine Dannheisser Projects Series is made possible in part by The Junior Associates of The Museum of Modern Art.

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