Despite Extractivism

Extracting Us moving online

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The Extracting Us Exhibition is remembered with a special postcard printed by Yuyun Ismawati, an Indonesian scholar-activist who visited the gallery and attended the reading group (Photo: Siti Maimunah)
The Extracting Us Exhibition is remembered with a special postcard printed by Yuyun Ismawati, an Indonesian scholar-activist who visited the gallery and attended the reading group (Photo: Siti Maimunah)

The Extracting Us online exhibition and conversation brings together contributors to a collective exhibition as part of the Political Ecology Network (POLLEN20) conference that was to be held in Brighton (UK) from 23-26 June 2020. The conference has now moved online and will take place from 22-25 September 2020.

It responds to the need to continue critical conversations around the political ecologies of extractivism in and beyond the COVID-19 public health crisis.

The online exhibition will include a selection from the 13 contributions originally proposed for the physical exhibition, including researchers/artists/activists working in extractivist contexts around the world including: Indonesia, Ireland, France, UK, Cambodia, Bangladesh, Nepal, India, Brazil, Ecuador, Trinidad, Gambia, Zambia and Tajikistan. The artworks are in a variety of media including photography, photo-montage, audiovisual compositions and 3D materials. The change in format means that we are also seeking to include critical responses to the artwork as part of the online space, either from contributors using more embodied or performative practices or from invited contributors among artists networks. 

The online exhibition and conversation will also be accompanied by responses from artists-activists, scholar-activists, communities affected by extractive projects and NGOs  as “in conversation” pieces and three webinars/online panels on methods for engaging with art practices “on the front line”, a conversation around “Pandemics – Care – Extractivism” and a “Weaving threads” session in September to think about next steps.


Through a unifying curatorial approach, the works challenge ‘north-south’ narratives on extractivism, enable the viewer to see and hear perspectives from those most affected, and develop actions of solidarity and resistance across countries and continents (see end of document). The displays will be located throughout the conference space, enabling each project to provide its own visual/aural narrative.

  • Bring together the effects of extractivism on people and the environment, and challenge the viewer to make (sometimes unexpected) connections;
  • Instead of providing detailed explanations of each exhibited item (photograph or material object), think about how they work as a group and provide a short text for a small group. 
  • Think about extractivism in terms of materials from (and of) the earth, as well as in terms of human and non human experiences and energies;
  • Challenge ‘north-south’ narratives on extractivism, listen to perspectives from those most affected, and develop actions of solidarity and resistance across countries and continents (we did this by co-curating the exhibition with an organisation based in Indonesia);
  • Include narratives of resistance where possible/relevant; and thus avoid relying on pathos that might develop an ‘us/them’ feeling;
  • Develop solidarity actions during the exhibition, for instance engaging emotionally and physically with the exhibition material (for instance we developed a series of postcards that people could write and send, choosing from a range of people/actors relevant to the context of coal mining in Indonesia); 
  • Work with quality materials at a professional standard, while also challenging ‘professional’ or ‘distanced’ kinds of aesthetics (for instance we sought to challenge typical modes of documentary photography, by including photos with a more ‘everyday aesthetic’ and that don’t necessarily require complex equipment).

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Credits

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.


Partners

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 logo

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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