This article is an ethnographic investigation of the labours of making art and selling liquid petroleum gas (LPG) in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. It locates these activities within a shared social world, centred on one of Bulawayo's major art galleries, and it demonstrates that artists and LPG dealers use similar strategies to respond to the political conditions of life in the city. This article frames these conditions as unpredictable, insofar as they change frequently and crystallize in unexpected forms, and it argues that both groups are attempting to act within these conditions and shape them into emergent assemblages. In adopting this term ‘assemblage’, which has been elaborated theoretically by Gilles Deleuze, Félix Guattari and their many interlocutors, this article emphasizes both the mutability and the unpredictability of these formations. The artists who work in the gallery, for their part, make their art by assembling their chosen media. The processes by which they choose their media constitute assemblages as well, in that artists have to adapt their artistic visions to the materials that Zimbabwe's market can provide. Street dealers in gas also produce emergent assemblages against the backdrop of unpredictability. If they want to make natural gas available to consumers, dealers must shepherd their medium through an always emergent process of distribution. They participate in transnational networks of trade, but they also theorize innovative strategies of procurement, develop circuits of trust and loyalty, and conjure up visions of a predatory state. Like artists, they use their work to construct dynamic representations of the world around them. Artists may produce images, and dealers circulate gas, but this article shows that conceptualizing these practices in terms of ‘assemblages’ calls their commonalities into view. In doing so, it also demonstrates that these practices complicate easy distinctions between aesthetics, economics and politics.