Inside the Energy Salon: Installation and Illusions of Finality


  • Arthur Mason Rice University



Energy planning, expertise, impression management, restructured industries, promotional cultures


This article analyzes promotional images associated with energy events as ethnographic objects in their own right. I examine how the sensory experience of promotional imagery with its fantasy display contributes to the rational presentation of energy planning, with its emphasis on accountability through expert knowledge provisioning. Promotional images fall under the rubric of impression management where an ideal of believability mediates between objects of manufacture and their desire. Informed by the works of artists Marcel Duchamp and Andy Warhol, I frame these images as an illusion of finality, which I then connect to a broader argument about the rise of an energy salon―a shift that appears to involve an increased prominence of visual attention and management in how energy expertise is produced, performed, and circulated.

Author Biography

Arthur Mason, Rice University

Arthur Mason is visiting faculty at Rice University in the Department of Anthropology. He is an Arctic anthropologist specializing in cultures of expertise, oil and gas development, and ritual and performativity. Arthur was previously a Ciriacy-Wantrup Fellow in the Department of Geography at the University of California Berkeley, and is the co-editor of Subterranean Estates: Lifeworlds of Oil and Gas (Cornell University Press, 2015). A three-time Fulbright chair award grantee (Norway, Canada, Russia), he has a PhD in anthropology from UC Berkeley. Arthur may be reached at