In this speculative presentation, artist and scholar Elia Vargas invites attendees to a crude oil hair washing. During this talk, Vargas offers his services to wash the hair of any willing guest with the crude oil source of his recent series of artworks. The product Crudeoleum: 100% Pennsylvania Crude Oil Scalp Treatment was imagined by pioneering American mystic Edgar Cayce. He believed certain types of crude oil had rich therapeutic properties because it was made up of paraffin hydrocarbons. Indeed, oil was medicine before it was fuel. While washing attendees hair, Vargas will discuss the entanglements of oil, light, and mysticism, while speculating oil as a figure of light and earth.
Elia Vargas is an Oakland-based, globally-situated, artist, curator, and scholar. He works across multiple mediums, including video, sound, projection, writing, and performance. He is co-founder of the Living Room Light Exchange, a monthly salon on new media art and digital culture, and a Ph.D. candidate in Film and Digital Media at University of California, Santa Cruz. Vargas has a long history of community radio broadcasting and place-based projects following an interest in transmission and human/non-human cultural formulation. He collaborates widely with artists, musicians, and institutions. His current work argues for refiguring crude oil as media.