The Human-to-Oil Press, 2006


This instrument can be used to transform donated human organic matter into oil; faucets on the sides emit the liquefied matter into collection barrels paralleling the press.

Dimensions: 8.5’ x 3’ x 3.5’
Materials: Pine, motor oil, canola oil, oil barrels, hardware.

The Human-to-Oil Press reconnects the human body to its part in the natural cycles of the earth, presenting a way in which humans can actually become petroleum. This piece is a wooden, human-sized press modeled after Mexican tortilla presses, which contain two hard surfaces that flatten the contents under evenly distributed pressure. This press, however, with drains at the base, produces oil when operated from the contents within, and deposits this oil into two basins running parallel to the press, dripping from faucets on the press.

The press was designed with a used machine/instrument aesthetic, almost as if the press could have emerged from the multitude of odd human inventions and instruments created during the Victorian era. With this visual decision, I wanted to explore the trial and error nature of human science’s legacy, where some scientific principles and facts have been exposed as ludicrous or ridiculous over the course of time. I also wanted the press to appear as if it is a machine already in action, which can be seen from the aged look of the piece. The human silhouette cut out from the piece contains imprints of the human form, as if the press has been used for “donated organic matter” multiple times.

This piece is a visual representation of a scientific, metaphorical, and futuristic look towards a solution for the growing oil deficiencies within the world, trying to bring awareness and even humorous responsibility to this issue.