Experimental Documentary Captures Oil Midstream

film still from midstream at twilight

The midstream sector of the petroleum industry, involving the transportation (by pipeline, rail, barge, oil tanker or truck), storage, and wholesale marketing of crude or refined petroleum products.

A period or state of obscurity, ambiguity, or gradual decline.

Midstream at Twilight is a short film about dark ecology and the necessary death of an industry. Through the aerial perspective of a drone, my experimental documentary Midstream at Twilight traces the liminal infrastructure of oil pipelines between its source in the tar sands of Canada’s boreal forest to a landscape of refineries in the US Midwest.

The drone view continues to scan the prairies and rivers for signs of the further distribution of the toxic particulate refinery by-product: petroleum coke or ‘petcoke’ as it is known in the industry. After hovering above the corporate headquarters of Koch Industries, Inc., the largest dealer of petcoke in the US, the film concludes along the Pacific coast, at the port of Long Beach / Los Angeles, where petcoke is loaded onto tanker ships to be sent to markets in China where it is burned in power plants and converted into toxic plumes of carbon dioxide and sulfur dioxide. Following the northern jet stream, these pollutants return to North America and the feedback loop of climate change continues to spin out of control. When viewed, Midstream at Twilight functions as a form of psychic direct action and, as such, can invoke a corporate death curse against a fossil fuel industry in decline.

Click to enlarge these production stills from Midstream at Twilight and learn more about this experimental documentary.


Featured image: This film still from Midstream at Twilight shows the first identified site in a long string of locations filmed in the winter and spring of 2016 along a 4,000 mile journey from Northern Alberta and across the Midwest before bifurcating south to the Texas Gulf Coast and west to the Port of Los Angeles. Image by Steve Rowell, 2016.

Editor’s note: All images are production stills from Midstream at Twilight, Steve Rowell, 2016. The captions for these production stills were written for this contribution to Edge Effects by the artist. Portions of the film description also appear on the artist’s website.

Steve Rowell is an artist who works with photography, moving image, sound, installation, maps, and spatial concepts to produce complex multicomponent works. His practice investigates terrains of perception, nonhuman intelligence, ecologies, and technology in the landscape. Steve contextualizes the morphology of the built environment with the surrounding medium of Nature, appropriating the methods and tools of the geographer and archaeologist. Born in Houston, Steve has been based in Los Angeles, Oxford, Berlin, Washington, D.C., and Chicago over the past twenty years. He currently lives in Minnesota and teaches at the Kansas City Art Institute as Assistant Professor of Photography. Website. Contact.