About

This project is produced on the stolen ancestral territories of the Tequesta, Calusa, Miccosukee, and Seminole people. The Miccosukee Tribe of Indians continues their stewardship of the land we know as South Florida, including the Everglades and Big Cypress wilderness areas.

Miami-Dade is home to many indigenous people, immigrants, refugees, and Black, brown, and Caribbean people whose ancestors lived and built this place against their will, while either enslaved, incarcerated, or under threat of violence.

The remote communication systems used by Oil Ancestors circulate globally. The servers contracted to run these systems are situated in locations around the world. All these places have their own particular history and geography.

I am grateful to live and create this work on these lands, but words alone can’t function as closure, resignation, or acceptance of the structural conditions of settler colonialism that are still impacting us today. Please use your time and resources to support Black and Indigenous community organizations in your region.


Oil Ancestors is inspired by my experience as a first-generation immigrant of Iranian and Azeri heritage. Petroleum imperialism has defined the contemporary relationship between my ancestral homeland and the US. The legacy of armed conflict and resource extraction also impacts many Caribbean, South, and Central American countries that are represented among the immigrant diaspora in Miami, where I live now. Furthermore, oil money funded the vacation fantasies that brought railroads to South Florida. Swampland and limestone were transformed under the cruel labor systems of convict leasing and debt bondage.

In Oil Ancestors, I’m considering ancient fossils, rocks, and minerals as part of our heritage. What would it mean to relate to petroleum as kin?

Is oil merely a fuel source and material for humans, or could it have other reasons to exist? Who is oil and what does oil want from us?

For more information about me and my other projects, please visit http://fereshteh.net

Contact: oilancestors-at-gmail.com

This project is made possible with guidance, encouragement, and support from:

🛢 Odyssey Works Experience Design Incubator
⛽️ Suzan-Lori Parks’ Watch Me Work (From Home)
🛢 2020 Westtown Artist Residency Project at The Weaving Mill
⛽️ Having Friends in the Future (HFF), an experimental project sponsored by the National Taiwan Crafts Research and Development Center and organized by Tribe Against Machine
🛢 Digital Love Languages at the School for Poetic Computation
⛽️ Getting Personal at the School of Machines Making, and Make-Believe
🛢 Live Arts Miami LALA Artists-in-Residence program
⛽️ The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation Knight New Work 2020 Award
🛢 Martha Hipley, web development
⛽️ Shih Wei Chieh and Yi Chin Hsieh, Mandarin translation

Many thanks to my friends and family for playtesting, focus groups, feedback sessions, reading groups, text messages, phone calls, and yoga classes. You all helped me survive the pandemic by caring for me in many different ways.

Fereshteh Toosi: Knight New Work 2020 from Knight Foundation on Vimeo.