Our vision for this project

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

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, watercoloured ephemera, drawings, a children’s corner 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 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.

Free entrance


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


Friday 29 May to Friday 26 June, inclusive

Opening times


Supported by The Friends of the Library, The Principal’s Fund and The Special Collections Centre

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