Our vision for this exhibition

Our vision for this exhibition is to use art to bring to light the human side of Aberdeen’s grand epic of oil exploitation, which has defined the area’s identity for half a century. Who are the people who keep it going today? What are their stories? This project specifically looks into international workers and families, and explores what it means and how it feels to de-locate and re-locate from one oil location to the next – a theme of global significance in today’s work culture, particularly in the oil sector.

This family-friendly exhibition will be launched at the University’s main public engagement event of the year, the May Festival, and will run for a month (May 29-June 27) at the University Library’s Events Area (ground floor, free public access). It will then tour Woodend Barn in October-November 2015. The displays will include contributions from two visual artists, Geneviève Guétemme and John Perivolaris, and feature photographs, video portraits, a screen piece, visual ephemera, drawings, a children’s corner by art therapist Vicky Gray and an audio piece by Janet Stewart which explores the ‘Lives in the Oil Industry’ archive, held in the Library’s Special Collections.

Those displays will create an empowering space of encounter between the broader community and oil expats, where their stories can be heard, with a focus on the state of perpetual transition in which a significant proportion of the oil community operates as it migrates between oil locations worldwide. What is it like to change countries every few years, moving from one oil city to the next? What do you take with you, what do you leave behind? How do you re-invent your life, your children’s lives? What are the challenges, the stories of resilience? How does that community perceive Aberdeen as they briefly settle? What sense of ‘home’ is theirs? There has been growing interest in such questions (with many publications on ‘third/cross culture kids’ and the emergence of organisations such as Families in Global Transition), yet nothing specifically on Aberdeen, even though it has a spectacular instance of highly mobile population.

Get involved You can help by volunteering to be professionally photographed and interviewed, and / or by filling in a questionnaire. You will be warmly invited to the launch in return!

Project organizers Dr Clémence O’Connor; Professor Edward Welch, Director of the George Washington Wilson Centre for Visual Culture

Partners University of Aberdeen (George Washington Wilson Centre for Visual Culture, May Festival), Woodend Barn Banchory

Where? Events Area (ground floor), Sir Duncan Rice Library, King’s College, Bedford Road, University of Aberdeen.

When? Friday 29 May to Friday 26 June, inclusive. The exhibition will also tour Woodend Barn, Banchory in October-November 2015.

Opening times 10am-5pm

Free entrance

Supported by The Research Institute of Irish and Scottish Studies (RIISS), The Friends of the Library, The Principal’s Fund, The Special Collections Centre, Woodend Barn Banchory.

Photograph by John Perivolaris

RIISSlogoWoodend Logologo Friends

Our vision for this exhibition

Interview with photographer John Perivolaris

To coincide with the show of ‘Home Truths’ at Woodend Barn, Banchory, and with John Perivolaris’s new exhibition City of Ghosts, the photographer has discussed his work on Aberdeen and on his digital piece for ‘Home Truths’, entitled ‘From Edo to Daviot’ with Clémence O’Connor.

‘From Edo to Daviot’ is a loop of seven images capturing of oil expats in Aberdeen and aspects of their lives. John Perivolaris: ‘The title refers to the images that begin and end the series and hint at the long journeys and distinct cultures embodied by both the humans and canines involved.’

The companion text piece to ‘From Edo to Daviot’ is this text piece.

Interview with photographer John Perivolaris

Home Truths: Workers and Families on the Move in the Oil Community


I’m an old-fashioned expat (one country of origin, one of destination, more or less), someone who’s had the chance to grow roots where I ended up settling down, and to reflect on the blurred notions of ‘home’ or ‘belonging’ from a comfortably stable standpoint. But after a year in Oslo I became interested in lives shaped by high mobility, and started to work on this project. I was aware of Geneviève Guétemme’s work on the topic in Cambridge, and aware also that Aberdeen is a case in point, with its oil-related expat community of Americans, French, Brazilians, Nigerians and Portuguese (among others). Typically, policy demands that they change posts every few years, so this is an ephemeral, high-turnover community of people who know from the moment they start planning their stay that they will be uprooted again within the next five years. The friends they make within their community, and…

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Home Truths: Workers and Families on the Move in the Oil Community

Geneviève Guétemme: profile

I am an artist and lecturer in the Visual Arts

My work examines the concepts of belonging, cultural enrichment and migrations. It seeks to explore the importance of adjustment to new cultures as a central part of any personal and professional development.

Previous projects:

Follow the fellow, a multimedia art project – New Hall art collection – Murray Edwards College, Cambridge UK –  http://www-art.newhall.cam.ac.uk/exhibitions/time/show/id/213/name/Follow+the+Fellow%3A+A+Multimedia+Art+Project

  • Oncoming:
    ” Career and cultural shock: needs and planning”, in ‘The use of teaching and researching forein culture in today’s universities: what seems to be the problem?’, International conference, June 11-13 2015, University of Orléans-Tours (France)
  • “Moving partners, High skilled mobility and its gendered mechanisms”, 29 April 2014: Postdoc Centre, University of Cambridge.
  • “Moving mothers”, ‘Motherhood in post-1968 European Women’s Writing: Cross-Cultural and Interdisciplinary Dialogues’, Thursday-Saturday 24-26 October 2013, Senate House, University of London
  • Symposium, Dec. 2012, “Mobilités Universitaires”, (Versailles – France)
Geneviève Guétemme: profile

Resources for the globally mobile


Lois Bushong, Belonging Everywhere & Nowhere: Insights into Counseling the Globally Mobile

– David Pollock and Ruth Van Reke, Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds
Websites, forums, blogs
Families in Global Transition http://www.figt.org/
Cross Cultural Kids, blog by Ruth Van Reken http://blog.crossculturalkid.org/
Helping Families Worldwide, blog by Julia Simens http://jsimens.com/
Other listings of TCK resources




Resources for the globally mobile

Questionnaire on being an expat

Questionnaire for the projet ‘Home Truths: Families on the Move in the Oil Community’ (University of Aberdeen and Woodend Barn Banchory, May-November 2015) This questionnaire has reached you as a member of the oil-related expat / international community, as a means of collecting data towards an exhibition on this community (see project description). If you are interested in taking the time to answer it, we would be very grateful for your thoughts. This project is not sponsored by any oil companies, nor will the data collected be shared with any third parties. They will be treated as confidential. This questionnaire complies with the University of Aberdeen’s standards of Ethics. The questions below are only meant as prompts: feel free to ignore some of them, or to send your answer as a freely-drafted paragraph. For all queries and to submit your answers (copied and pasted in an e-mail or other file), please contact the project organizer Clémence O’Connor at: clemence.oconnor@abdn.ac.uk

I understand that filling this questionnaire, and/or considering getting involved in other activities, is entirely voluntary on my part and requires my consent:

Sign: ………………………………………………………………………………..  

Your perceptions of Aberdeen

  1. How long have you lived in Aberdeen? Do you feel well settled?
  2. For you, what are the words, places, images and sounds that best sum up Aberdeen?
  3. Is there a specific place in the area that you find striking, or identify with at some level?
  4. Do you feel ‘at home’ in Aberdeen? What about in the country you originally come from? What does your sense of belonging depend on?

Your individual trajectory

  1. What has been your individual trajectory?
  2. Do you work in the energy sector yourself, or are you partner to someone who does?

Employee / Partner / Both

  1. If you are a partner, do you work in Aberdeen or Aberdeenshire? Do you consider it to be particularly difficult or easy for you as an expat to find work each time your change countries?
  2. During the transition between countries, is there a risk that logistical / administrative matters and other practicalities might become overwhelming? Or do you see this, on the contrary, as a good opportunity to find out how your new country ‘works’?
  3. Are you satisfied with the logistical support provided at times of transition by your employer or your partner’s? Why is that? What could be improved?
  4. Have you used the services of a relocation company on arrival here?
  5. Is learning the language part of your experience of changing countries? What languages do you speak and / or understand?
  6. What impact has transnational mobility had on your relationships with your relatives ‘at home’? What is it like coming back ‘home’?
  7. What impact has transnational mobility had on your social life? Has it been a limitation or an opportunity?
  8. Find three words to describe the experience of re-inventing your life as you move from one country to another.

What you leave behind, what you take away with you

  1. What types of objects do you leave behind when you de-locate? If you feel like attaching photos of such objects for our website, they would be very welcome. 16. Is there a significant object that you always take with you? If you feel like attaching a photo for our website, we would be very grateful.
  2. What will you be leaving behind, literally and / or metaphorically, when you leave Aberdeen? You could browse the forum linked below to decide if the ideas expressed there are relevant to your own experience. http://communicatingacrossboundariesblog.com/2015/02/21/what-did-you-leave-behind-a-post-for-the-tck/

Your child / children

  1. How old is / are your child / children?
  2. So far, has discontinuity been an obstacle or an opportunity for his / her / their education?
  3. What about for their friendships, their social life, their bonds with relatives ‘at home’?
  4. Children’s resilience, their ability to adapt to new situations, is well known. Do you have an example drawn from your experience?
  5. Do you think that resilience depends partly on your child’s / teenager’s age group?
  6. What are the conditions for optimal resilience, in your view?
  7. What are the factors that can limit resilience?
  8. What will your children leave behind as they leave Aberdeen?
  9. What will they take with them? (These last two questions could be answered with the help of your child, if you wish to involve them in your answers.)

The expat community

  1. What has been the importance of the international expat community for you, whether here on site or online? Are you part of one or more groups on the social media? How much do you rely on groups, forums etc. to gather the informations necessary to daily family life as an expat?
  2. In your social life here, what has been the role of expat community or communities? Which one(s) matter the most to you?

Current North Sea context

  1. What effects, if any, has the current context of restructurings had on your experience as an expat in Aberdeen?

Any further comments? And finally…

  1. On principle, would you be happy for an extract from your questionnaire above to be used as part of the exhibition described on the summary attached, or on the exhibition website, in anonymous form? Your permission will be requested again for each specific extract that we might wish to include.

YES / NO Because we wish to collect as many data as possible, we would be extremely grateful if you could pass on this questionnaire to your partner and / or other expats.

You are very warmly invited alongside your family to the exhibition ‘Home Truths’ (29 May-26 June, Events Area, Ground Floor, Sir Duncan Rice Library, King’s College campus, University of Aberdeen) and to its launch, on May 28th, 2015 at 5pm.

Will attend.       Will attend with family.             Will not attend.               Do not yet know.

Questionnaire on being an expat

Calling all Aberdeen-based expats in the oil industry!

Calling all oil expats in Aderdeen and Aberdeenshire: would you like to be professionally photographed and feature in an exhibition?

Would you like to be photographed by a professional fine art photographer, and interviewed on themes similar to the questionnaire on the experience of de-locating and re-locating available on this website? Would you be tempted to be photographed by a professional artist towards an art and community exhibition currently prepared by the University of Aberdeen: ‘Home Truths: Workers and Families on the Move in the Oil Community’? The photoshoot will also involve a filmed interview, if you are agreeable.

Please feel free to just sign up for the photoshoot or fill in the questionnaire – it is up to you how much you want to get involved! And please spread the word and help us collect data for this exciting project, which is organised by the University of Aberdeen and complies with its standards of ethics. Let me know if you are interested, and please direct all enquiries and questionnaires to me, at clemence.oconnor@abdn.ac.uk .Thanks.

For the photoshoot and any interview, we can come to your home, or another location of your choosing. If you can think of a significant object which you always take with you when relocating, we would appreciate the chance to photograph it, too. Your family could contribute as well, if they wish and with your consent (a consent form will be available). If interested, please let me know which option you would select:

  • I wish to take part at a time and in a location of my choosing, over the weekend of May 16th-17th.
  • I wish to take part, but a weekday would be easier.

All participants are very warmly invited alongside your family to the exhibition ‘Home Truths’ (29 May-26 June, Events Area, Ground Floor, Sir Duncan Rice Library, King’s College campus, University of Aberdeen) and to its launch, on May 28th, 2015 at 5pm. Please let me know if you:

  • Will attend.      
  • Will attend with family.
Calling all Aberdeen-based expats in the oil industry!