Despite Extractivism


Sandro Simon

Plastic canisters of 20L are omnipresent in the Sine-Saloum Delta, Senegal. They largely stem from Malaysia and Indonesia and are imported via Gambia as palm oil canisters, before being re-used and re-modified in various ways by delta inhabitants. 

Petrol- and palm oil production are major drivers of fragmentation and intertwinement as well as of environmental ruination. Their offsprings, the canisters, are products and residues of the Plantationocene (Haraway 2016). They represent, take part in and materially inherit processes of extraction and dispossession in different world regions and relate various human and more-than-human actors to each other across space and time. As tangible and quotidian, yet always malleable objects, they can guide our quest to inquire, critique and contest such processes and relate them to each other. Moreover, canisters offer themselves as objects that can directly and sensuously convey these processes and relations into the exhibitive realm.

In “Bidonmondes”, the canisters’ history is brought into correspondence with the their various applications in the delta after the palm oil is consumed – their use as canisters for palm oil, water and petrol and their re-modification into dustbins, sieves, and burning material. The different material and symbolic makings and re-makings of palm oil and petrol are thereby explored across six ‘bumpy’ audio-visual loops, which reconfigure, enlarge and contrast imagery and sound: on the one hand, the imagery and sound around canisters in the Sine-Saloum Delta. On the other hand, the canisters’ inherited sound: Malaysian logging, palm oil cutting, palm oil industry advertisement, petrol industry advertisement for offshore drilling near the delta, motor boat use, and petrol production. The videoloops’ individual arrhythmicity and possible sequencing into one imperfect, endless cycle thereby also point towards the unfulfilling human desire for infinite (re)production within a finite world.

Not only the work itself explores the tension between ruination and agency, also its naming makes this reference. “Bidonmondes” draws onto the term “Bidonville”, a term coined in colonialised Morocco and Tunisia in the early 1930s for housing at the edges of cities made from left-over tin oil canisters. A Francophone attribution, it initially travelled via postcards, hence relied on a visualisation, before becoming a standalone term used across the francophone world to delineate the creators and inhabitants of such places as the other, impure and dispossessed, living a peripheral life. In another perspective, however, the creators and inhabitants of so called “Bidonvilles” also ascribed new value to the residues of extractivism and reappropriated-, made a home- and created a community amidst them.

Nowadays, peripheries and centres are fragmented, precarities intertwine and nature-culture divides collapse. Distinct but at the same time interdependent, emergent worlds constitute. It is in this context, that I come to use the term “Bidonmondes” as a globalised and indeed charged offspring of “Bidonville”. In the centre stands thereby not anymore an object made of tin initially containing petrol, but one made of petrol initially containing palm oil. “Bidonmondes” – by taking up the term “Bidonville”, but also by paying homage to the oeuvre of Romuald Hazoumé – shall thus connect the agentive ways of living with/in residues in colonialised Marocco and Tunisia and postcolonial Senegal and highlight both the continuities of extractivism and its acceleration and globalisation.







Audiovisual loop II uses a sample from Malaysian Palm Oil – Tree to Table and audiovisual loop V uses a sample from Sangomar Field Development advertisement

About Sandro Simon

Sandro Simon’s research- and artistic interests encompass multispecies relations, water, work, body and multimodal methodologies. He is a PhD researcher and scientific assistant in the Emmy Noether Junior Research Group ‘Volatile Waters and the Hydrosocial Anthropocene (DELTA)’, funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG) and located at the Department of Anthropology of the University of Cologne.

More of Sandro’s work here


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.

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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.

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About Despite Extractivism

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).

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