Milk and oil flowing together, black and white, like the footballs that will, in only four years’ time, be kicked, sliced and spun by national teams from across the world in the Quatar 2022 FIFA World Cup. Oil, often referred to as black gold, has become a blessing and a curse. It is everywhere – from the fuel that powers our cars, ships and planes to the plastic cartons in which we package our food, so much so that those who control oil almost control the world, with politicians in its powerful grip, while its products contribute to climate change and to the pollution of our oceans and there are contradictions in the political power play around oil and in the poor record of human rights that exists in many OPEC countries.
Why oil and milk? The award to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup in 2010 was soon followed by allegations of corruption and bribery and questions about why the honour was given to a country in which homosexuality is illegal (as in most Middle-Eastern countries) and, a few years later, in June 2017, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates cut diplomatic, economic and transport ties with Qatar following accusations that it was supporting extremist groups, one result being the immediate loss of fresh milk and dairy products from Saudi Arabia, quickly replaced by development of a new dairy industry which has made Quatar self-sufficient in dairy products. Is there political power play in football, as there is in oil production?
The American artist Sheida Soleimani explores these complexities and contradictions of power in ‘Medium of Exchange’ at Edel Assanti in London. Supported by jerry cans, her large rigid digital photographs on colourful backgrounds combine images of the faces of Oil Minsters from OPEC countries and well-known Western Politicians such as Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld applied as masks to the bodies of homosexual actors of both sexes in scenes which are both ridiculously romantic and deeply sinister, set against a background of symbols and photographs of the oil industry.