Oil Ancestors: Oral History
The ways humans make and use materials changes over time. Oil-based materials are an ordinary part of everyone’s life now,
but this change has only happened in the last century. There are still people alive who remember a time before
single-use plastic packaging and synthetic fabrics were so common. As people become increasingly aware of the impacts of
climate change, there is a renewed interest in traditional materials.
Use your phone or other audio device to record conversations with elders in your community
to capture their memories and experiences with material and energy transitions. You don’t have to ask all the questions,
you can choose just a few and let the conversation guide you.
Interviews in all languages are welcome! Questions in Mandarin follow the English below.
The questions are for all of us to contemplate, but I encourage you to reach out to friends and family
who are in their 70s, 80s, and 90s. Experiences and stories vary depending on where people grew up and their living conditions.
This project was developed in response to the 2020 Westtown Artist Residency Project at The Weaving Mill in Chicago and the swatch exchange for
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.
🛢 MATERIALS LIST
1. questions list
2. phone or other audio recording device
3. interview release form downloaded from https://tinyurl.com/oil-OH-release
🛢 BEFORE THE INTERVIEW
1. Choose someone whose experiences and perspectives you would like to learn about, perhaps an older relative or family friend.
2. Plan a date and time for your interview.
3. Test your recording capabilities ahead of time. You can use your phone or a video call app.
🛢 DURING THE INTERVIEW
1. Make sure both people are in a quiet place when recording the interview.
2. Ask your questions and listen carefully to the responses. Allow time to think about answers; silence is okay!
3. You don’t have to ask all the questions and it’s okay to talk about things that are not on the questions list. Ask follow-up questions and encourage expanding upon answers.
4. At the end of the interview be sure to complete a signed copy of the release form.
🛢 AFTER THE INTERVIEW
1. Give your files a clear title. Name your file with Last Name of Interviewer-Date Of Interview (eg. Tsai_12-Jan-2021)
2. Write a brief summary of what you talked about and select a few keywords that would give a person who hasn’t yet heard your interview an idea of what you discuss.
🎤 TO BEGIN, the interviewer should state the date, interview location, and interviewer’s name.
🗣 INTRODUCTION QUESTIONS
1. What is your name and age?
2. Where did you grow up and where do you live now?
✂️ QUESTIONS ABOUT TEXTILES
1. What is your relationship to plant and animal textiles like silk, wool, cotton, and linen?
2. Tell me about the textiles your family used when you were growing up. What kind of household linens and clothing did you have? Where did they come from?
3. How have you seen textiles change since your childhood? What are the biggest reasons for those changes?
4. What is your relationship to synthetic textiles like nylon, rayon, polyester, spandex?
📀 QUESTIONS ABOUT PLASTICS
1. Do you remember when you first started using plastic in addition to cloth, wood, metal, and other materials?
2. How have plastics changed your life?
3. Which plastics are you grateful for? Which plastics trouble you?
🔋 QUESTIONS ABOUT ENERGY
1. When you were younger, where did the energy you used for heat, electricity and fuel come from?
2. When you were growing up, how did your family store and preserve food? Did you use a refrigerator? Did you have other methods?
3. How did you heat or cool your home when you were a child?
4. How have you seen the way we make and use energy change since your childhood?
⛈ QUESTIONS ABOUT CLIMATE CHANGE
1. When was the first time you heard about climate change?
2. How has your understanding about climate change changed since then?
3. What ways have you seen climate change impact your community or the world?
🔮 OTHER QUESTIONS
1. What are your hopes for how future generations will make and use materials?
2. What have you noticed about how COVID-19 is impacting our use of materials?
👋 TO END, the interviewer may express their gratitude and allow time for open comments.
1. Do you have anything else you’d like to say?
2. Thank you!
Thank you for participating! After you upload, you will receive updates by email.
All English-language recordings will be transcribed
and you will receive a copy along with credits on this website.
If your interview was conducted in a language other than English,
we'd love to work with you to find an appropriate transcription service.
Many thanks to Shih Wei Chieh and Yi Chin Hsieh
for their translations below.
Please contact natureconnectionarts-at-gmail.com if you have any questions.
您有什麼樣的家⽤亞⿇布和衣物？ 他們的產地 來⾃何處？
1) 除了布料，⽊頭，⾦屬和其他材料， 您記得第⼀次使⽤塑料的時候嗎？
2) 當您的成長過程中，您的家⼈如何保存食物？ 您有沒有使⽤冰箱？
1) 您什麼時候第⼀次聽聞氣候變遷？ 從那時開始，您對氣候變化的理解產⽣了怎樣的改 變？