Unraveling Industry: Follow the Oil



Unravelling Industry is a platform to map oil and gas infrastructure in Louisiana by company. Through Follow the Oil, an interactive “scrolly-telling” narrative, the public can follow the flow of oil from points of extraction (wells and access canals) to points of emission (plants and refineries) through the narrative device of a single pipeline.

The project was designed to support local and global demands for corporate accountability, make a case for oil extraction to be considered unjust enrichment, and look toward a horizon for  “ecological reparations” that would support reintegration –– for  segregated human communities and between human beings and our wider ecologies.

Beyond the platform, the project will manifest in various creative outcomes to explore the corporate-colonial cosmologies that our extractive culture follows to the end(s) of the earth. It traces corporate-colonial guiding lines through the continuum of Extractivism, which spans from colonialism and slavery to coastal erosion and climate change. Uses a methodology I call cartographic unraveling, it disentangles and analyzes the GIS lines (pipelines and canals) and points (wells) used to make geography, unmake communities, and break Earth’s geology.

In the US state of Louisiana, the fossil fuel industry maintains the spatial, economic, and environmental logic of colonialism and slavery. Since 1926, oil and gas companies have dredged 10,000 linear miles of ‘access canals’ to drill and access over 75,000 wells throughout the state’s coastal wetlands, a practice that has led to widespread coastal erosion. Upriver and down the fossil fuel production cycle in ‘Cancer Alley’, the nation’s most polluting petrochemical plants and refineries occupy the footprints of former plantations.

The images below reveal the obscured constellations of lines and points (representing permits for pipelines, canals, and wells) that guide our society toward disposession and disaster. Ultimately, these maps will be sewn into an interactive mapping platform and augmented with corporate logos and a color-coded system to reveal to the corporate authors of these inscriptions. Only corporate-colonial accountability and reparations can re-orient us toward a horizon of justice.


All images and texts on this site are the creations of Imani Jacqueline Brown, unless otherwise noted, e.g. photodocumentation of works or collaborative projects.