The Extracting Us curatorial collective and contributors Pedro Neto, Maica Gugolati, Sandro Simon and Negar Elodie Behzadi prepared a video to introduce the exhibition and conversation at the Extraction: Tracing the Veins virtual conference co-hosted by the Political Ecology Research Centre at Massey University in New Zealand and Wageningen University Centre for Space, Place and Society in the Netherlands.
The presentation which you can view below was in the stream Pasts and futures: Colonialism, culture, postextraction imaginaries.
With ever-expanding commodity frontiers, the extraction of natural resources scars both landscapes and livelihoods. Aesthetics and narratives of spectacular destruction are pervasive, even amongst critical gazes and voices. Endangered natures are portrayed as vast and personless, invisibilising the experiences and agency of those who defend their land and live through the ongoing everyday experiences of extractivism.
The Extracting Us Exhibitions, which we will introduce in this video, respond to this with a gaze informed by Feminist Political Ecologies. Grounded in community experiences of living with and resisting extractive industries, our upcoming online exhibition responds to the need to continue critical conversations around the political ecologies of extractivism in and beyond the COVID-19 public health crisis. The exhibition and accompanying conversations will bring together the work and experiences of artists, activists and researchers engaging with frontline realities, inviting new perspectives on extractivism to be brought into view and to invite acts of solidarity.
All: Welcome! Selamat datang! Bienvenue! Sungeng rawuh! Welcome!
Alice: Thank you for joining us today for this presentation of the Extracting Us Online Exhibition. So we’ll just begin by introducing ourselves – we’re the curatorial collective – and then we’ll go on to discuss some of the ideas behind the exhibition, and how we’ll be moving the exhibition online. And then we’re going to go on to showcase some of the highlights from the original exhibition which was in Brighton last year, and then look at some of the contributions for the online exhibition. We’ve got some of the contributors to share their reflections and introduce their work.
So, I’m Alice, I’m a PhD researcher at the University of Brighton, and my research is about how communities resist fracking here in the UK.
Dian: Hello, I’m Dian, I’m a PhD researcher in the University of Brighton and I’m also working with the WEGO-ITN network. I’m doing research on care in oil palm in Indonesia.
Mai: Hi everyone. My name is Siti Maimona, I’m from Indonesia. At the moment, I’m an activist, an environmental activist. Also, in 2018 I got a scholarship from WEGO-ITN and now I’m a PhD student at the University of Passau, studying feminist political ecology and my research is about ethnicity, mining and gender.
Elona: Hi everyone, my name is Elona. I am based at the University of Brighton in the UK where I met everyone. I’m not part of the WEGO network formally but I’m really pleased to join in. And I am finishing a PhD on urban commons in Europe and I’m really interested in the role of creative and artistic practices in connecting and creating relationships between different often strange places.
Becky: Hello, I’m Becky and I’m Professor of Human Geography here in Brighton, the University of Brighton. And I come at this from a perspective of feminist political ecology and my work is largely around extractive landscapes relating to agriculture, and I’m one of the mentors in the WEGO network, which has brought me into contact obviously with this group, and also with working with Elona.
Dian: Since joining the group I’ve been learning about FPE and I’ve come to realise that it’s not only about learning but it’s about embodying the experience, embodying FPE in your daily life. What we feel with this exhibition of Extracting Us is that FPE informs us not to be extractivist ourselves. This is also an attempt of co-producing knowledge to mention the voice that is often unheard, and to bring out what is the extractivism in everyday life that is often not shown in extractivism discussions.
Mai: Working with communities affected by mining in Indonesia, when I was doing my secondment at University of Brighton I met Alice, Elona and Becky and – Hey Sara!- and how to think about how to connect two countries, UK and Indonesia, about the extractive issue because the raw material from UK is something that comes from Indonesia, and also the issue of climate change; how to bring extractive issues, and also the care in my study. So then, that’s, that’s why we have Extracting Us exhibition in July last year at Brighton. We have a collaboration with ONCA, WEGO-ITN and some organisations in UK.
So it’s not just an exhibition. We also have reading groups, we bring photos from communities affected by mining in Indonesia – coal mining especially – and then we also have a film screening and joint session with the youth group in UK, Climate Youth Action. And also, the important thing is, we have the writing postcards workshop, sending to Indonesia from the UK. So it’s kind of, the spirit of the exhibition is not just about the activities of the exhibition, it’s how to connect solidarity between people to people , from UK people and Indonesia. So, by their spirit then we continue the second extracting as exhibition.
Elona: So we were inspired to continue Extracting Us and also invite more people into the conversation and so we made a call for a collective exhibition that was to be held at the Political Ecology Network Conference in Brighton this June. The conference has been postponed due to the current pandemic and so we decided to move the exhibition and conversation online. And we had 13 contributors originally planned for the physical exhibition from 13 different countries and different extractive contexts, and it included a range of materials not all of which are appropriate for an online exhibition. So that’s one challenge is changing the format. There’s also a new curatorial skills for how you present all these materials online in a way that is engaging and can contribute to conversation, but it also offers some opportunities for people to participate in the online exhibition in a non-live way, because there’s also challenges to all these live events, online events, when there’s not so much internet accessibility or different time zones. And it’s also an opportunity to have a longer term engagement so we are launching the exhibition at the end of July, and with some contributions over the summer and until the end of September. We’ll have more about that and some of the conversations, we want to continue. Now over to Becky.
Becky: So, many questions were opened up through the exhibition in ONCA which continue to work – we continue to trouble ourselves with. As the exhibition has moved us beyond looking at the sort of more spectacular versions of extractive landscapes, we’re interested to look at the lives that are being extracted. So our ongoing questions continue to centre around care. We understand this through an intersectional approach to power, marginalisation and resistance. So questions around race, ethnicity, youth, class, and coloniality are centred in our lines of questioning. What’s happened with COVID-19 is that it’s brought many of these questions around care or intersectional inequalities into sharper view. That’s going to continue to be a line that we look, through the exhibition, to explore. And, in addition to this, the social response to tackling COVID-19 has also raised specific challenges for those confronting extractivism in their daily lives who are now contending with COVID as an additional concern on the frontline, but also for those cultivating solidarity. So, as other news agendas dominate , the question for us is how we keep the injustices of extractivism alive for those who are not directly impacted.
Alice: Thanks everyone. So now we’re going to look at some scenes from some of the events that happened at the ONCA exhibition in Brighton last year and I hope you can see how some of the ideas and approaches really came into action.
— [Footage from Extracting Us exhibition 2019 is subtitled in video]
Ibu Rahmawati: Assalam Mu’alaikum Waalikum Salam Warohmatullahi Waborokatuh. I am Ibu Rahmawati, I would like to day thank you very much to my friends who have supported me who live in the UK. Insya Allah, I will continue to fight and find justice for the children who drowned in the (coal) mine pits. Once again, thank you very much.
Alice: And now it’s our real pleasure to share with you some introductions to the work kindly put together by some of the artists and researchers who will be featuring in the upcoming online extracting us exhibition. As you will see, the work of Pedro, Maica, Sandro and Negar are responses to very different extractive contexts and we look forward to the insights that can be gained by bringing these into conversation with each other.
Maica: Hello, it’s Maica Gugolati and I’m the author of this photo-collage project ‘Floating Tropics’. My project shows digital idealist landscapes of the county of Trinidad and Tobago where pictorial naturalism lives with gas and oil extraction’s enterprises. Trinidad has been a producer of oil and gas since colonial time. This imperial occupation shaped the lands and waters of the country, transforming them as productive commodities. However, this omnipresent industry is invisible in the national artistic representation of the country, but instead has focused mainly on the pictorial imaginary of a dreamt land. Landscape etymologically means to shape the land. This act of transforming the land is the leitmotif of my project: the land that is aesthetically and physically shaped by human beings, cars, the social and cultural lives of its inhabitants. I propose with these photos away to shape, where the extractive activities reoccupy pictorial representability. Here, the oil and gas industries cohabit with human beings populating the land that we are exploiting. This project comprises the industrial iconic invisibility aiming to shake the viewers about what they see, and it invites the audience to observe the surrounding lands, asking to shape them contextually and responsibly for a sustainable future. While we extract the lands, we are extracting us.
Thanks to the collective initiative of Extracting Us, projects like this one have the chance to grow through counterpoint discussions that challenge the hegemonic positions. For me, this is a precious opportunity to share this Trinbagonian magical realism, the […?] between oil and gas extraction with the environment and its population.
Negar: Hi, I’m Negar Elodie Behzadi, I am a lecturer in Human Geography at the University of Bristol. So the art-based work that I introduce here in the context of Extracting Us is based on ethnographic research that I undertook in the village of Kante in Tajikistan, working mainly with men, women and children artisanal coal miners, and in particular with female miners who are stigmatised in the village.
So I was really delighted to see the call for Extracting Us. The group’s dedication to investigate different ways of knowing and looking at extractivism, taking a feminist intersectional approach really resonates with my own work. So in my own work, I take a feminist, postcolonial, decolonial approach to resource struggles and I’ve been exploring the use of digital methodologies for a while now in cluding through the setting up of a milti-disciplinary network exploring these questions at my former institution, Kings College London. This network is called VEN – Visual, Embodied Methodologies network.
In the past years I’ve also been involved in the direction of a short ethnographic film with a video editor, ‘Komor’, coal in Tajik. So I’ve used my own footage from my fieldwork in Kante and I really found this a really inspiring and fascinating experience. So this first experience inspired me to carry on other forms of under-studied, under-explored visual methods. I worked with Kate Jessop, a feminist award-winning animation artist, to create a short ethnographic animation film – a short animated portrait – of Nadura, a stigmatised female miner in the village of Kante.
So in addition to these two films I’ve also engaged in research art exhibitions with my own photographic work including through the series of photographs that I’m introducing in the context of Extracting Us, that is called ‘‘The Shame” – ‘Sham’ in Tajik – which is based on, on an exploration of the ambivalent experience of shame of the female miners who are stigmatised in the village of Kante.
I think that generally my creative work aims to make visible and visibilise the stories of exclusion in resource extractive context, and what it puts into focus is the visual and affective politics that creative work can actually offer an add to like traditional research methods. I think that this mode of writing in the context of resource extraction touches on the multi-scalar aspects of resource exclusion and violence, starting with the macro and structural transformations and then moving to the very ethnographic, intimate and affective experiences of resources struggle, and I think that this is what feminist political ecology does.
Alice : A huge thanks to all those who contributed these snapshots of their work, we’re really excited to see more as the Extracting Us exhibition launches online.
We would like to extend our thanks the ONCA gallery in Brighton who have been hugely supportive with their expertise, space and resources throughout, to the EU-funded WEGO network for Feminist Political Ecology research which brought many of us together and has supported the project financially, and to the Centre for Spatial, Environmental and Cultural Politics, and the Radical Futures research centre at the University of Brighton for their financial support.
The exhibition will be going live at the end of July at www.extractingus.org
We will be adding new content over the following months and creating opportunities for engagement, conversation and solidarity throughout.
Before the launch we are pleased to be hosting two online webinars, the first was held in June and brought together artists, activists and researchers to discuss the challenges of creative engagements at the frontlines, particularly in the context of the pandemic.
The second webinar will follow on from these themes, looking in particular at how extractivism and care are related (NB this event is postponed).
In September, following the exhibition going live and the ongoing conversations, we are looking forward to another webinar in which we can weave together our collective learnings and consider the next steps for the Extracting Us project.
We hope you will be able to join us in these conversations, and we are very happy to hear from artists engaging in similar work.