Can art making, through embodied thinking, activate our empathy at a deeper and more instinctive level than our rational understanding of events?
Can this urge us to act? Can this help us grieve?
Toxic Waves II is an online participatory drawing performance where participants are invited to draw to the beat of a metronome the shape of a wave with a repetitive line.
Investigating the exploitation and inequality deep-rooted in social tragedies, Toxic Waves seeks to engage with such disasters through the medium of drawing, exploring whether this medium has the power to close the distance between us and the events happening thousands of miles away from us.
On the 25th of January 2019, the Córrego do Feijão iron ore mine in Minas Gerais, Brazil, played host to a disaster of devastating proportions. When a tailings dam belonging to Vale, the world’s largest iron ore producer, collapsed, tonnes of toxic mudflow advanced downstream, killing 270 people in the process. Prosecutors subsequently described a relationship of ‘pressure, collusion, rewards and conflict of interest between Value and the German company TÜV SÜD,’ alleging that Vale hid information about the dam’s instability to avoid harming the company’s reputation, and TÜV SÜD issued reports confirming that it was safe.
Bringing the hard-hitting reality of this this site-specific tragedy to the table, Arabel is encouraging us to engage our bodies and minds with it through the medium of drawing.
In the first iteration of Toxic Waves, participants took part in a drawing performance at Dorset Place in Brighton and online via Zoom.
To the beat of a metronome with 272 different movements over around seven minutes, participants were invited to draw waves, using charcoal and the movement of their body.
Arabel Lebrusan is currently a Research Fellow at the Centre for Spatial, Environmental and Cultural Politics at the University of Brighton. Arabel is a Spanish-born artist working in sculpture, drawing, jewellery, and site-specific interventions. Focusing on materials and material culture—such as metal from knives confiscated by police, or mercury used in small-scale gold mining, her work investigates wider issues of power relationships, exploitation and inequality, and her artworks function as social commentary. Arabel is currently exploring notions of extractivism, ecofeminism and ecological grief.
The Extracting Us exhibition and conversation series is co-curated by Siti Maimunah, Elona Hoover, Dian Ekowati, Alice Owen and Rebecca Elmhirst with critical insight and support from independent curator Celina Loh. Online exhibition designed and developed by Celina Loh with the Extracting Us Collective.
This project is made possible by support from ONCA Gallery, the Centre for Spatial, Environmental and Cultural Politics at the University of Brighton, the Wellbeing, Ecology, Gender and cOmmunity research network funded by the European Union Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No 764908), and collaboration with the Women in Action on Mining in Asia (WAMA) collaborative network and the ‘Sustainable’ Development and Atmospheres of Violence: Experiences of Environmental Defenders project funded by The British Academy.
WEGO-ITN (Wellbeing, Ecology, Gender and cOmmuny International Training Network) is an EU-funded research network contributing to the political ecology, feminist studies, human geography, anthropology, and development studies’ understanding of extractivism, commoning, care, communities, livelihoods, embodied subjectivities and resistance to development. WEGO-ITN is made up of scholar-activists working on feminist political ecology from ten institutions in six European Union countries: Germany, Italy, Norway, Spain, The Netherlands, and the United Kingdom and ten institutions from eight countries for training and secondments: Australia, India, Indonesia, Italy, New Zealand, Portugal, Uruguay and USA.
The Centre for Spatial, Environmental and Cultural Politics (SECP), based at the University of Brighton, undertakes interdisciplinary research to address global and planetary challenges such as climate change, human migration, social inequalities and resource access or depletion. SECP explores the environmental, spatial and cultural dimensions of ecological and social challenges in specific places, to offer new knowledge and practice for the creation of more sustainable and socially just societies.
ONCA is a Brighton based arts charity that bridges social and environmental justice issues with creativity. ONCA promotes positive change by facilitating inclusive spaces for creative learning, artist support, story-sharing and community solidarity. ONCA Gallery works with artists, educators and organisations to co-deliver exhibitions, events and workshops that explore social and environmental issues.
Except where otherwise noted, the content on this site is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
Hosted on servers powered by 100% renewable energy by 34sp in Manchester, UK.
As with the Extracting Us exhibition, we invited the Despite Extractivism contributors to consider how their work can follow our guiding principles:
• The online exhibition brings together artistic and creative contributions that explore everyday community experiences of and responses to extractivism, and/or engage in ongoing conversations around extractivism, communities and care, in its various forms and registers.
• It includes three core aims:
– to challenge ‘north-south’ and ‘producer-consumer’ narratives on extractivism
– to listen to perspectives from those most affected, and develop actions of solidarity and resistance across countries and continents
– to challenge the viewer to make (sometimes unexpected) connections and develop solidarity (e.g, inviting the viewer to take specific actions or connect with the community
• The exhibition thinks about extractivism and care in terms of materials from (and of) the earth, and considers the experiences of humans and the rest of the natural world.
• The exhibition will include narratives of resistance where possible/relevant; and avoid relying on pathos that might develop an ‘us/them’ feeling
• The exhibition will work with quality materials while also challenging ‘professional’ or ‘distanced’ kinds of aesthetics
Despite Extractivism assembles expressions of care, creativity and community from diverse sites of extraction and geographical contexts. Extractivism is characterised by the violent accumulation of resources, which often devastates and disrupts affected communities and the natural world. Collectively, the works in this exhibition illuminate and explore ways of questioning, subverting and resisting the logics and impacts of extractivism.
Despite Extractivism is part of the ongoing ‘Extracting Us’ collective journey exploring the diverse, uneven but sometimes connected ways in which resource extraction also extracts from communities. It is an invitation to explore questions around extractivism and its logics, but also to explore the already-existing alternatives. How do communities and creatives (struggle to) cultivate care for nature and for each other despite extractivism? Can sites of extraction be a fertile ground for alternatives? Can artistic interventions help foster new sensibilities and solidarities with distanced extractive contexts?
Like weeds growing through the cracks in concrete, and in their flourishing slowly forcing the cracks to widen, the contributors to Despite Extractivism scatter here their seeds of ways of thinking or being in extractive contexts.
There are stories of artists who are involved with communities inhabiting landscapes threatened by destructive projects, imagining and practising ways of being which subvert and resist extractivism: V’Cenza Cirefe’s Counter-mapping in the Sperrins (resisting gold mining in Northern Ireland), Chesney’s Down The Line (resisting the HS2 railway in England) and Federico Pardo’s forthcoming contribution (resisting gold mining in Cajamarca, Columbia).
There are illuminations of other tactics of resistance, from the creativity of the Kartini Kendeng women ecological defenders and their portrayals by Dewi Candraningrum (resisting cement mining in Java, Indonesia), to the counter-mapping initiative by the Pari Island community, JKPP and collectives to stop extractive tourism (Seribu Islands, Indonesia).
There are explorations of the uneven geographies of extractivism, with Karin Edstedt’s (Title) embroidery depicting the disproportionate environmental injustices of mining on indigenous communities (copper extraction conflict in Laver, Sápmi; coal mining in Kalimantan, Indonesia), and Sandro Simon’s audiovisual work Bidonmondes drawing attention to the omnipresence of extractivism through the everyday repurposing of imported palm oil canisters in the Sine-Saloum Delta, Senegal (originating from extractive palm oil plantations in Indonesia and Malaysia).
There are intimate accounts of uprooting due to extractive projects, accompanied by the persistent determination to build or rebuild lives in Between Rivers by Daniel Macmillen Voskoboynik (Intergenerational care and multidimensional extractivism, Russian Urals), This is my Home by Maria Rosa Pessoa Piedade & Marilene Ribeiro (dispossession caused by the Belo Monte dam, Brazil) and In the Forest We Believe by Albertus Vembrianto (Covid-19) exacerbates migration from a coastal area affected by gold mining waste, Papua, Indonesia).
Finally, there are invitations to engage with practises and performances which inspire embodied reflection on the destruction and destabilising effects of extractivism in distanced contexts: Arabel Lebrusen’s Toxic Waves II (in response to deadly failure of a dam at the Córrego do Feijão iron ore mine in Minas Gerais, Brazil ) and Choules+Roisner’s REGOLITHIC (in response to global extraction).