David Jacques, Oil is the devil’s excrement, 2017. Video still

Oil is the Devil's excrement

2017. HD video, 4′ 18″

Direction: David Jacques
Animation: Paul Nuttie
Audio: Chiz Turnross

Juan Pablo Pérez Alfonzo was a prominent Venezuelan politician who served two terms in office with the Centrist Betancourt Administration (1947-48 & 1959-64). As Minister for Energy he was drawn into conflict with the U.S. under Eisenhower who had negatively affected quotas on Venezuelan oil by favouring new trade agreements with Canada and Mexico. Alfonzo’s response was to form an alliance with oil producing Arab nations in an attempt to regulate the global oil market. His ideas came to fruition with the establishment of 'The Organisation of Oil Producing Countries' - OPEC.

However, protection within the market and the promise of unfettered wealth arising from Venezuela’s immense oil reserves were undone by what economists came to term the 'natural resource curse'; the sudden influx of money would cause the national currency to dramatically appreciate, wages are driven up, prices inflate, manufacturing, imports and exports all slump. Though this was yet to occur for Venezuela during the early OPEC years, Alfonzo saw it all coming. In a prophetic 1975 speech he uttered the infamous lines; "Ten years from now, twenty years from now, you will see; oil will bring us ruin. Oil is the Devil's excrement".

The description of oil as Capitalism's infernal obscenity ‘the Devil’s excrement’ also saw Alfonzo reaching back into the depths of time, invoking the Pre-Columbian peoples to whom the term was first attributed. These factors, pointing towards mythology and superstition, helped to shape the cycle of artwork produced. The narrative generated for the short animation focuses on the exiled Alfonzo in the Georgetown Washington Hospital. Ailing and delirious, he is visited at his deathbed by a diabolic sentient 'thing', accompanied by a Daemonic Chorus who capriciously commentate on the event for us. A series of condemnations and wind-ups ensue and it becomes evident that the triumphant visitor has called with one purpose in mind, to claim its quarry.

In all we are presented with a hallucinatory parable, telling of an addiction to a noxious, omnipresent substance. The ultimate outcome seeing corruption, poverty, war, pollution and all this revolving around a grim speculation…

the case all along was that we had never been in control of oil, it’s oil that’s been in control of us.

David Jacques, North Canada - English Electric, 2017. One of 100 stereoviews

North Canada - English Electric

2017. Installation of 100 stereoviews, stereoscopic viewer, audio MP3 (11′ 02″) & Headphones

A retired worker habitually returns as an amateur photographer to the sites he was previously employed at - the Port and the Industrial Estate. Both now exist in liminal zones, at the de-regulated, toxic edges of the city.

He’s been detained at the Port, detected by and recorded on CCTV.
He’s about to be questioned about his activities, at which point a voice from the supernatural intervenes…

A female ‘spirit voice' subsequently takes over the narration, enacting a role-reversal or possession ritual, as evidenced in the ancient mythological trope of ‘the return’ (see French Ethnologist Marc Augé in his 1998 essay ‘Oblivion’).

She speaks in the ‘conditional progressive’ a dualistic tense that simultaneously engages with the past and the future. She digresses from the interrogation to ruminate over the optical phenomenon that is stereoscopy, reflecting upon a history of distractive banalities – of ‘home entertainment’, virtual tourism, 3D crazes…

David Jacques, The Dionysians of West Lancs, 2013. Video still

The Dionysians of West Lancs

2013. HD video, 16′ 31″

‘The Dionysians of West Lancs’ is an essay film that weaves through age-old tensions associated with Enclosure acts and the defence of the Commons. The narrative being geographically played out around tracts of land running up the coastline of West Lancashire.

In its entirety, the film is collaged from a number of diverse threads. The text derives from factual sources; on-line ‘rave forums’, passages from an 18th Century act of Parliament and a topographical survey from 1907 titled ‘A history of the County of Lancaster’ which recounts the controls feudal landowners attempted to exert upon the area tracing back to medieval times.

A musical accompaniment for the film comes in the form of an Algorhithmic trance piece by sound artist Norah Lorway. Preceded by a  jam session recorded in 1929 by a travelling British gramophone engineer in Casablanca, accessed on-line via the Free Music Archive.

The visual elements were culled from youtube clips of a rave on Southport beach from 1991, animated volvelles (moveable wheel charts or 'search engines') from Pieter Apian’s ‘Cosmographia’ published in 1524 and a ‘Phantom ride’ along the Southport Coast Road shot on GoPro from a car dashboard.

During the making of the film (Jan-Oct 2013) two significant issues affecting the region emerged: The first 'Fracking' licences were granted to private companies in the wake of an estimated 40 trillion cubic metres of Shale Gas being located beneath West Lancashire and stretching East across 11 counties. To the South a 42 acre terminus will be constructed for a private consortium in Liverpool Bay to facilitate the arrival of Post Panamax vessels capable of carrying 13,500 containers at a time, pushing the Port's capacity to 2million containers per annum.

Ultimately, the control, ownership, reconfiguration & exploitation of resources around this landscape continues to pose questions and contestations. This film is intended to engage with such concerns.

David Jacques, November 2013


David Jacques is a multimedia artist primarily involved with film. His practice engages with the subject of history, its narrative interpretations and the interplay between factual and fictional strategies of representation. His interest in deconstructing and re-apportioning the subject often results in the exploration of forgotten, marginalised and socially and politically disruptive sources.

In 2010 he won the Liverpool Art Prize and was shortlisted for the Northern Art Prize. Recent screenings of his work include Tate Liverpool, ‘Art turning Left’; 17th International Video Festival VIDEOMEDEJA, Novi Sad Serbia; WNDX Film Festival, Winnipeg Canada and Sheffield Fringe at BLOC Projects Sheffield. He lives and works in Liverpool.