Exhibitions & Events



Lost Prairie Valley

Planetary Bayou

Field Guide to Environmental Crime: Houston and the Oil Coast

Dead Zones

Extinction Simulation Landscapes

Lunar Mosaics

MacDowell Trilogy

Humans Lived Here Once

Whole Life Academy

Comfort in Hydrology

Uncanny Sensing, Remote Valleys

Water Castle

Radio Aporee Sound Map

Midstream at Twilight



Forest Threnody

Big Hill Petro-glyphs

Current State

Points of Presence

Brandenburg Series

Svalbard Global Seed Vault

Sonic Boom Archive

Johnston Island Saturday Night

Suspension of Disbelief

Quantum Danube


Culpeper Media Bunker

A Doubting World

“... the floors of silent seas”

Background Listening Post

Regional Spatialities

Dark Places

Ultimate High Ground

American Oil Vol. I

Kleine Stücke von Berlin


Playas Townsite

Shepard Inversion Ghost


Shock + Awe

Gloom & Doom / Tactile Air

Routes of Least


Weather Radio

Site: Nonsite: Quartzsite

The Mountain Radio Project

Ballarat: Beneath Sentinel

CLUI Projects

Networked Nation


Urban Crude

CLUI Touchscreen

Texas Oil

Wendover, U.S.A.

CLUI Exhibit Posters

Pavement Paradise

Vacation: Dauphin

Dissipation & Disintegration

Terminal Island

Immersed Remains

Diversions & Dislocations

Emergency State

Loop Feedback Loop

A View into the Pipe

Ground Up

Nellis Range - Revisited

West Coast Points

The Best Dead Mall


Antarctic 1

One Wilshire

Alternate Routes

Proximity Issue

Back to the Bay

︎  ︎

© 2024 Steve Rowell


Steve Rowell

American Oil Volume I

This is a collection of field recordings I made while working on 2 exhibits with The Center for Land Use Interpretation in 2008 and 2009. Texas Oil and Urban Crude were both photographic, regional exhibits about oil: its industry, the landscape, the links between places and peoples across the nation and the world. While quite a lot of our fieldwork was spent above the land - in helicopters and small planes, shooting aerials of refineries, I did find find myself on the ground at some of the sites, listening.

Whether we like it or not this is the age of oil. In America, it started in 1860 at a small creek in Pennsylvania, then erupted as an industry in 1901 with a geyser of crude in east Texas and became a fact of life when entire cities were designed around the automobile. These recordings trace a path across America from the historic well in Titusville Pennsylvania to oil fields across Texas and urban pump jacks in Los Angeles, at natural science museums, refineries, auto-salvage yards and abandoned car dealerships in Houston during tropical storms, pine forests where boomtowns once stood, petrochemical plants, liquid cargo rail yards, and the largest petroleum port in the world. One of the last tracks you'll hear was recorded at a gas station in upstate New York, a lesser known part of this history where people were pumping oil from beneath their backyards in 2008 when the price was high enough to make it worth their while. This program is an arc across a nation's history as well as its geography, moving through geologic time and space.

Steve Rowell : Mountain Radio Redux

Retlaw Kedzu is the mysterious voice Rowell discovered when he bought a reel to reel deck in 2000. On the tapes was a voice from 1972/73 seemingly broadcasting from a fictional place in the Nevada desert. Retlaw, a pseduonym, triangulates his location constantly during his radio "station breaks". This voice served as the " radio host" of mobile pirate radio broadcasts Rowell and fellow artist, Mason Cooley, performed in and around Los Angeles in 2000-2001.

Episode 1: American Oil

  1. Drake Well Oil Museum film featuring Vincent Price as Col Drake - Titusville, PA
  2. Drake Oil Well Museum working well walkthrough - Titusville ,PA
  3. Pumpjack - Beaumont, TX
  4. Oil Springs historic site pine woods - Nacogdoches, TX
  5. Manchester Park and Valero refinery - Houston, TX
  6. Rohm and Haas petrochem plant - Deer Park ,TX
  7. Oil show test rig - Odessa, TX
  8. "Leak Looker" display Permian Basin Petroleum Museum - Midland, TX
  9. Refinery model Museum of Natural Science - Houston, TX
  10. Allen Co well pumpjacks - Signal Hill, CA
  11. Beverly Center Mall oil well - Beverly Hills, CA
  12. Chevron refinery at night - El Segundo, CA
  13. Alvarado St church urban oil well - Los Angeles, CA
  14. Gas station - Syracuse, NY

© 2009 Steve Rowell

Broadcasted on Herbst Radio (Berlin) February 03, 2010
Broadcasted on Resonance 104.4 FM (London) February 14, 2010
Podcasted on Framework (Võru, Estonia) February 14, 2010

Some of the photographs to be published in the booklet of the CD pressing of American Oil Vol. I include landscapes and aerials. However, here are a selection of photographs from the layout of the many museums dedicated to the history of oil: