Solastalgia

Solastalgia, is an extended, ongoing meditation on the petroleum industry in southwest Louisiana and the material, ecological, and social violence that this industry has produced in the region. The term “solastalgia” was coined by the Australian environmental philosopher, Glenn Albrecht, and refers to the deep existential and psychic grief that accompanies the loss of one’s home environment due to forces beyond one’s own control. For more than 150 years, my maternal family has lived in Mossville, Louisiana, a small, unincorporated community that was a historic freedmen’s community. In 2011, the South African energy and chemical company, Sasol North America, announced its plans to invest $21 billion to build the first gas-to-liquid plant in the United States and expand its existing chemical facilities, which produce synthetic fuels and a variety of petrochemical products. The expansion required a buyout of the community, effectively resulting in its demise. Solastalgia is, borrowing from Roland Barthes, a “mourning diary” of the slow death and disappearance of my mother’s hometown, which was also a formative site in my own childhood. This project plays with themes of origins, religiosity, domesticity, death, and the psychic life of ruined landscapes.