‘Despite Extractivism’ Exhibition – Open call for Contributors

Now in its third year, the team behind the ‘Extracting Us’ exhibitions are calling for works which bring attention to aspects of resistance to extractivism that sometimes slip from view. 

The ‘Despite Extractivism’ exhibition will continue the journey of activist/academic/artistic inquiry towards understanding the differentiated but connected ways extractivism impacts communities across multiple contexts. The project is also motivated by exploring how the exhibition format can be a way of fostering active solidarity.

Building on the connections between extractivism and care that emerged from bringing together the works of thirteen artists working in different extractive contexts, the new exhibition aims to further explore how everyday and creative ways of caring for each other and the environment can also be subversive acts of resistance which challenge the very logics underpinning extractivism. In these cracks in the concrete of extractivism, what kinds of fertile alternatives might be cultivated and enabled to flourish? How do acts of caring and resistance counter – and sometimes risk reproducing – extractivism? 

The exhibition and accompanying programme of events will be aligned with the  International Degrowth Conference in the Netherlands in August which will be exploring the theme of ‘Caring Communities for Radical Change’, and the COP26 Climate Change Conference in the UK in November in the run up to which we will amplify the connections between extractivism and the demands of environmental and climate justice. 

Contributions are invited from communities, creatives and campaigners working in places affected by the extractive industry anywhere in the world. With the ongoing pandemic context, all digital formats will be considered (visual, audio, text, video). 

Please see here for the full call including the exhibition themes and curatorial principles. We look forward to expressions of interest by 7th August. 

This exhibition is co-curated with the ONCA gallery in Brighton (UK) and researchers associated with the University of Brighton and the WEGO_ITN research network. 

Article – Part 2: “Durian und die Kolonialität der Macht”

This is the second part of the article originally published in Südostasien: Zeitschrift für Politik, Kultur, Dialog, in German. You can read the full text here.

Nicht nur der Extraktivismus bedroht die Durian. In Nordkalimantan heißt die Bedrohung ‚grüne Energie’. Dort sind, am Kayan und weiteren Flüssen, fünf Staudämme für Wasserkraftwerke mit einer Gesamtkapazität von 9000 Megawatt geplant. Rund 70 Prozent des Stroms sollen in das Industriegebiet und den internationalen Hafen Tanah Kuning-Mangkupadi (Kawasan Industri dan Pelabuhan Internasional, KIPI) fließen. Der Rest wird zum Teil nach Malaysia exportiert, zum Teil fließt er in andere Gebiete Kalimantans.

Der Kayan-Fluss ist mit seinen 576 Kilometern Länge die wichtigste Transportader ins Binnenland. Der Fluss bietet traditionelle Fischgründe für die lokalen Dayak. An seinen Ufern liegen Obstgärten und Felder. Von den Feldern bekommen die Menschen Kohlenhydrate, Mineralien und Vitamine; die Fische sind ihre Proteinquelle. Am Oberlauf wird mit Netzen oder Angeln gefischt, am Unterlauf haben die Anwohner*innen Farmen für Garnelen, Krabben und Fische mit einer Gesamtfläche von 149.000 Hektar angelegt. Der geplante Staudamm, der als größter in Südostasien gilt, wird zwei Dörfer mit ihren Feldern und Gärten verschlucken. Außerdem wird damit gerechnet, dass sich Strömung und Sedimentbewegung verändern. Schon seit 2012, als das zuvor zu Ostkalimantan gehörende Nordkalimantan eine eigenständige Provinz wurde, hat die Dezimierung der Durian stark zugenommen. Seitdem hat sich die Zahl der Konzessionen für Steinkohleförderung versechsfacht, dazu kommen noch Konzessionen für Palmölplantagen und entsprechende Waldrodung.

You can read the full text here.

New article: “Durian und die Kolonialität der Macht”

This article was originally published in Südostasien: Zeitschrift für Politik, Kultur, Dialog, in German. You can read the full text here.

Die Kulturen Südostasiens beeinflusst sie seit Jahrtausenden, doch in der westlichen Welt kennt man sie erst seit rund 600 Jahren: Die Durian-Frucht. Die in Südostasien und Südasien mit spezieller Verehrung bedachte ‚Königsfrucht’ wurde in der Kolonialzeit zum Objekt der Phantasien westlicher Forscher*innen und Abenteurer*innen. Ihre Aufzeichnungen zeigen, wie der ‚ferne Osten’ seinerzeit als gefährliches, wildes und primitives Gebiet wahrgenommen wurde, welches bezwungen, gezähmt und modernisiert werden musste. Der außergewöhnliche Reichtum seiner Natur machte den ‚fernen Osten’ zur kolonialen Frontlinie in einem Kampf, dessen Ziel die Unterwerfung von Natur und Kultur darstellte.

Zwar endete die Kolonialherrschaft Mitte des 20. Jahrhunderts. Doch der Traum von der Modernität verschwand nicht aus den ehemaligen Kolonien. Die neuen Nationalstaaten setzten die westliche Betrachtungsweise und Praxis fort, in der Fortschritt in Form von Wirtschaftswachstum gemessen wurde. Der peruanische Soziologe Anibal Quijano bezeichnete die Tatsache, dass auch nach dem Verschwinden der Bürokratie der Besatzer eine koloniale Logik das Regierungshandeln prägt, als „Kolonialität der Macht“.

Entsprechend René Descartes Leitspruch „Cogito, ergo sum“, stellt sich der Mensch als denkendes und sprechendes Wesen ins Zentrum der Schöpfung und verneint alle anderen Wesen, die nicht denken und nicht sprechen. Dieser Artikel versucht, die Kolonialität der Macht in Indonesien am Beispiel der Durian aufzuzeigen und damit einen Ansatz der Dekolonisierung anzubieten, der zu einem sozialen und ökologischen Handeln führen kann, das auf Gerechtigkeit basiert.

You can read the full text here.

An initiative for an Indonesian pluriverse

Indonesia, the world’s largest coal exporting country, is facing critical challenges. After 76 years of declaring independence in 1945 and later turning  economic growth as a measure of welfare, Indonesia has faced three significant challenges: severe economic disparity, socio-ecological crises in most big islands of the country, and its oligarchy, which is hijacking democracy. The economic gap data, provided by the Indonesian Statistic Centre (BPS) in 2011-2015, reveals that the wealth of 40 richest people is equal to 10,3% of the country’s GDP or  60 million of Indonesia’s most impoverished people . While in the last five months industrial catastrophes have continued to increase, big floods occurred in almost every island, including South Kalimantan, as well as a  flood due to collapsed containers of coal mine waste in North Kalimantan and East Kalimantan. Unfortunately, the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) leads the disclosure of the state loss by corrupt practices by political elites, hijacked by the oligarchy. 

The course of economic growth and development, in reality, is never free from critique in Indonesia and globally. The story of the development policy with economic growth reinforces a few developed countries, whereas the rest is fighting socio-ecological crises to not fall behind. 

In every part of the world, demand and struggle for alternatives to development are happening. One of the critical references which hold various ideas for alternatives to growth is the book “Pluriverse: A Post Development Dictionary.” For instance, Latin American countries proposed a concept originating from indigenous people movements, such as Sumak Kawsay, Buena Vivier, and The Life Project. In Europe, the academic and activists are bringing “Degrowth” as an initiative that expressed reversal from growth in the economic sector and other social sectors

As in Latin America, one of the critiques on economic growth in Indonesia came from the indigenous people movement. In Timor island, the Indigenous people’s philosophy challenges the development model that depends on the extractives project: “we will not sell what we cannot create,” means they do not sell the land, the water, and the mountains (Maimunah, 2013); it was meant both as a critique and an alternative to development with economic growth. Unfortunately, the state does not recognize the existence of the Indigenous people’s territory. Indonesian government granted the concession of extractive projects on Indigenous people’s land. It’s no wonder that, in 1999,  indigenous people refused to recognize the state if they did not recognize them as well (AMAN, 1999).  

Indonesia has various alternatives to development. One example happens in Mollucas, Sasi, in a ritual for the moratorium of collecting economic benefit from nature (Zerner, 1999). In other places, such as Mollo, in Timor island, there is a ritual called Naketi, a kind of self-reflection ritual to make peace with oneself, humans, and nature (Maimunah, 2005). Sasi and Naketi were just a tiny part of what had been practiced long before the birth of the Republic of Indonesia. Indonesia has many alternatives rooted in the archipelago nation with geohydrological, language, and cultural diversity.

Bringing the spirit of the ‘Pluriverse’ idea, which explores and discusses alternatives to development, is a crucial and urgent effort to respond to the failure of obsolescence of the development model with economic growth today.  This  is the reason behind establishing a collective among Indonesian scholars and activists, to create a group to start the conversation of an “alternative to development in Indonesia.” The first step of the collective  was to organize  a book discussion and an open call for collective translation of the “Pluriverse, A Post Development Dictionary” book launched on 3 July 2021. 

(You can watch the book discussion here)

“The ideas in ‘Pluriverse, A Post Development Dictionary” contain 100+ alternatives to challenging development as it is. This book becomes a reflection tool, a medium of learning and discussing: we reflect and know ourselves and discuss the alternatives. The activities in reflecting and conversing on this subject consist of two parts; first, a collective public translation of “Pluriverse, A Post Development Dictionary” to make it  accessible in  Indonesian. Second, collecting local stories on alternatives to development to discuss them with broader audiences. It might give us a way out of the shackle of development with economic growth and into a transformation model which allows various options to attain welfare, or even for practicing the Pluriverse, as stated by Zapatista as “a world where many worlds fit.”

“The Second Body”, a poem for International Women’s Day

On 8th of March 2021, TKPT, a women organization in Indonesia, held the Kalimantan Island meeting. This meeting was attended by 16 women representatives from all provinces in Kalimantan Island, who rely on extractive economies – such as big mining, logging and oil palm plantation. They discussed and had a reflection on their “Tanah air” experiences.

Tanah Air is an Indonesian phrase. The original meaning is “Tanah = soil” and “air = water”.  However, Tanah Air has multiple meanings, from the place where you were born and grew up, to your ancestor territories, to your nation state. According to the participants (all women activist affected by extractives project), Tanah air is the living space for human and non-human nature that they rely on and try to defend.

WEGO researcher Siti Maimunah, who attended the meeting, wrote a poem based on the stories told by these women in their meeting. The poem is inspired by the “Feminist Political Ecology Dialog with Indonesian Youth: Feminist, Multispecies and the Second Body”, two days before the meeting. The poem is dedicated to Women Survivors and Women Right’s Defendants in Kalimantan Island, Indonesia, and to all those celebrating International Women’s Day around the world.

(1)

I met my second body that afternoon,
We talked for almost four hours,
We talked about rivers,
palm oil catfish,
mud cracks,
paper trees,
saltwater crocodiles,
Semandut lake,
lost tallow nuts,
bauxites and cans,
landslide and sandbags,
children died at coal mine pits

I met my second body that afternoon,
We talked until dusk came,
We talked about fields,
land spirits,
village festivals,
alternative economic,
persistence in learning,
nature’s supermarket,
coconut oil soaps,
and growing trails of the forest

I met my second body that afternoon, Tanah Air.

(2)

Ra,
I’m picturing your story about Dulau River and its ripples
About the forest eaten by countless of paper trees
About its leaves protruding like tissue papers
About its bright white fruits, blinding the mounting paper pulp
I see your story in toilets, offices and university library

Le’,
I’m reminiscing your painting of Kapuas River and its creeks
About those mud cracks in where Semendut Lake used to be
About the four villages losing their water and gaining heap of bauxite waste
About tengkawang trees that no longer stand in line along the river
I see your painting on food cans, on cars in the streets and on batteries

Jan,
I’m listening to your tale about Malinau River and its hospitality
About the oil palm trees replacing what once was a rainbow forest
About those catfish carrying palm fruits between their skinfolds
About the fish and water that used to be sweet, now tasteless and oily
I read your tale in cosmetic bottles and boards in gas stations

Jul,
I’m daydreaming about Sanga-sanga River and its gloriousness
About your alienation from land that now moves when it rains,
About the necessity to build a dam using sandbags
About the cracked dry land, and gaping holes of toxic water
I see your frustration at traffic lights in metropolitan cities in the island of Java

Sar,
I’m reminiscing about Mahakam River and its edges
About the ships full of hundreds of Meranti trunks
About the coal barges lining under the bridge
About the drinking water costs a third of the labors’ minimum wage
This memory is written in the list of children who died in coal mine pits

Had,
I’m heeding your story about Santan River and its guardian crocodile
About the damaged upstream and the now regular floods
About the powerless Balians against the crocodiles who prey its neighbours
Your story is on the faces of the rich at the President Palace and Parliament Office

Ann,
I’m picturing Barito River and the floating market
About the foul pilgrims of coal toying with their religion
About the capital city lying below the sea level and the giant pits
The picture sticks to the flash floods that drowned the capital

Still, I’m also listening to Suket’s story
About the female rattan weavers who are related to land spirits
About the farming rituals to honor land, rice, and forest
About “Unang Telang Otah Ine,” for the forest as breast milk
About the belief that forest is the true life provider

Still, I’m dwelling about the story of Had,
About the youth of Santan who bring life back to their village
About the the goal of recovery surrounded by giant mines and palm oil siege
About the spirit of learning and building an alternative economic
About the hopes of the independent festivities and communality

I met my second body that afternoon, Tanah Air.

 

Passau, 8th of March, 2021

‘Extracting Us’ Exhibition and Conversation Launches Online

Following the experience of co-curating  the exhibition “Extracting Us. Looking Differently: Feminism, Politics and Coal Extraction” at ONCA gallery in Brighton in July 2019, an online collective exhibition and conversation is being  launched this summer at extractingus.com to explore the political ecologies of extractivism across different geographical contexts from a feminist perspective.  The 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. 

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. The exhibition challenges audiences to make (sometimes unexpected) connections between the cases and themes explored, including how extractivism affects both people and the environment, humans and more-than-humans. In addition to inviting the viewer to explore the contributions of each artist, it is also possible to explore the connections and juxtapositions that arise across the works according to the themes of  care, agency, inter-generational (dis) connections, modes of engagement, scales, and temporalities.

The online exhibition will include a selection from the 13 contributors originally proposed for the exhibition, including researchers/artists/activists working in extractivist contexts including  Indonesia, Ireland, France, UK, Cambodia, Bangladesh, Nepal, India, Brazil, Ecuador, Trinidad, Gambia, Zambia and Tajikistan. The exhibition will also be accompanied by responses from artists-activists, scholar-activists, communities affected by extractive projects, organisations working to resist extractive contexts and visitors to the site. 

Virtual Launch Event 

political ecologies of extractivism

Coal mine in East Kalimantan, from Henri Ismail, overlaid with protest graffiti in Western France. Image: Elona Hoover.

 WEGO members Siti Maimunah, Rebecca Elmhirst, Dian Ekowati and Alice Owen are working together with Elona Hoover from the University of Brighton with critical insight and support from Persephone Pearl, Lydia Heath and Louise Purbrick  of the ONCA Gallery. The curatorial collective are inviting the public to attend a virtual launch event and curators’ tour on August 13th.  The launch event via Zoom will include a virtual tour of the online space , then there will be plenty of time for participants to ask questions to members of the curatorial collective and contributing artists-activists-scholars. These will be facilitated through the chat function and in rounds.  In the spirit of launch events usually held in the gallery, guests are invited to bring their own refreshments to enjoy as they conversation opens up. The event is being held in the afternoon UK (2-3pm) time to facilitate participation from contributors in other time zones, and apologies for those we are not able to accommodate. Book your place to attend, and please do get in touch if the event can be made more accessible for you. 

Moving Online

The curatorial team have worked to move to the exhibition online following the postponement, due to COVID-19, of the Political Ecology Network (POLLEN20) conference where the exhibition was due to happen in June 2020. Overcoming the setbacks of not being able to hold the exhibition on this occasion, the team are finding that moving the exhibition online is offering many innovative opportunities for engagement. The change in format allows for the incorporation of critical responses to the artwork as part of the online space, both from contributors using more embodied or performative practices and from invited contributors among artist and activist networks such as the Women and Mining Network in Asia (WAMA). Moving online, the exhibition will now be accessible to communities who would not be able to visit the exhibition in real life, although there are still limitations such as internet access and language that the team are working through at the pre-emptive stage. 

Ahead of the launch event, the curatorial collective organised a webinar exploring “creative engagements on the front lines” where artist-activist-scholars shared their reflection on continuing creative engagements and acts of solidarity and resistance during the pandemic, and the ways in which their engagements have continued or been done differently. Because the online exhibition seeks to find new connections and open up new kinds of conversations, more webinars are anticipated over the next few months to share and explore these emerging findings. 

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.

Extraction: Tracing the Veins – video and discussion

The Extracting Us team invite you to enjoy our video discussing some of the ideas behind the exhibition and introducing some of the works that will be featuring in the online exhibition. The video is part of a panel on Feminist Political Ecology at the online  ‘Extraction: Tracing the Veins’  conference hosted by Massey University, New Zealand and Wageningen University. There is an active comments section encouraging discussion and conversation – please do join in! J

You can watch the videos and join the discussion here: http://perc.ac.nz/wordpress/feminist-political-ecology-gender-feminism-social-reproduction/

Creative engagements on the front lines – webinar

24 June 2020 12:00 – 13:30 – BST free online event

Creative practices are central to activism on the front lines of resistance against forces that are changing the skin of the planet. Viruses don’t stop machines, and extractive practices continue despite the current pandemic, affecting organising and creating. How do creative engagements on the front lines continue in a pandemic? How does COVID-19 emphasise the importance of continued acts of solidarity and resistance? What are ways of continuing the ‘doing’ but also new ways of ‘not doing’ or ‘doing differently’?

In anticipation of the launch of Extracting Us, an online collaborative exhibition and conversation, artists-activists-scholars will share their experiences of doing this work: Tracy Glynn, participatory action researcher studying at the University of New Brunswick in Canada, Edgar Xakriabá, Denilson Baniwa and Jaider Esbell, independent artists and activists based in Brazil, Negar Elodie Behzadi, Lecturer at the University of Bristol working in Tajikistan, and Daiara Tukano, independent artists activist educator and researcher based in Brasilia Brazil (TBC).

Katy Beinart from the University of Brighton will then host a discussion with Persephone Pearl, co-director at ONCA Gallery in Brighton, Jamille Pinheiro Dias, Research Associate at the University of Manchester, and Wendy Harcourt, Professor of Gender, Diversity and Sustainable Development at Erasmus University in the Netherlands.

The webinar will finish with 25 minutes of questions and discussion with participants, who will also be invited to contribute actively during the event.

Free event, places are limited. Sign up at: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/creative-engagements-on-the-front-lines-tickets-107840738552

The Extracting Us exhibition and conversation series are being co-curated by Siti Maimunah, Elona Hoover, Alice Owen, Dian Ekowati and Becky Elmhirst.

This project has received support from ONCA Gallery, the Centre of Spatial, Environmental and Cultural Politics at the University of Brighton, WEGO-ITN European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No 764908. We are also grateful for the collaboration of members of The British Academy funded project ‘Sustainable’ Development and Atmospheres of Violence: Experiences of Environmental Defenders.

Extracting Us. Creative engagements on the front lines 

Going beyond extractive methodologies to research extractivism

going beyond extractive methodologies
Early bluebells, a sign undisturbed land, growing in front of the Horse Hill oil production site.

The Horse Hill oil production site in Surrey in the South of England, on the surface, takes up only a couple of hectares and is mostly obscured from view behind the leafy woodlands and blossoming hedges of the English countryside. But beneath the surface its wells extend vertically and horizontally for kilometres, penetrating the underlying clay and shale formations to extract oil millennia in the making. The first strata to be drilled through is Weald clay which will contain the isotopes that signal the nuclear reactions which have been declared as an indicator of the Anthropocene; the combustion of the fossil fuel beneath and the ensuing climate change will leave their own geological traces of this age of extractivism. 

going beyond extractive methodologies
Weald clay deposit.

Extractivism, as I have come to understand it, is a relation that refers not only to such literal acts of the extraction of natural resources for the accumulation of wealth, but also to the asymmetrical flows of power and knowledge resources between people. The history of the social science research is one of extractivist research practices; Anthropology is particularly populated by researchers guilty of exploiting cultural differences with a one-way flow of knowledge accumulating as academic prestige. Thus it is my challenge as a researcher of extractive industries to ensure my research does not replicate extractive relations with the communities I am researching with.

going beyond extractive methodologies
Joining campaigners at the Faith at the Gate vigil bearing witness to injustices occurring at the Horse Hill site.

So what does researching extractivism beyond extractive methodologies look like? Guiding words for me are those of Indigenous Idle No More activist Leanne Simpson who, in an interview with Naomi Klein, states that “the alternative to extractivism is deep reciprocity. It’s respect, it’s relationship, it’s responsibility, and it’s local”. This idea of deep reciprocity also resonates with Donna Haraway’s invitation in her book Staying with the Troubleto cultivate care-full engagements and response-ability, or the capacity to acknowledge and respond in caring ways to injustices inflicted on human and nonhuman others towards ways of living well together. 

In practice, this means avoiding the type of research where the researcher simply arrives, extracts the relevant information from interlocutors, leaves without any further contact and assimilates the information into their research publications. Rather, I am adopting an approach of slow ethnography and of active participation with the community campaigning against the continued production of oil at Horse Hill and the expansion of the industry across the region. This means not rushing into interviews, but first spending time becoming acquainted with the community and participating in events and meetings not only as ethnography but as a way of enacting solidarity with their campaigns. This comes with its own challenges, such as the awkwardness of always being The Researcher in the room and feeling that there is always more I could be doing to help with the enormous amount of work that has to be done rather than ‘just’ doing research about this work. However, as I gather knowledge of the campaign through my various research practices, I am increasingly able to contribute to meetings and events. 

going beyond extractive methodologies
Clay creations being made, and on display at the Horse Hill monitoring camp after being fired.

As a way of giving to as well as receiving from the campaigning community, I have worked together with ceramicist-activist Xanthe Maggs to offer creative workshops with Weald ‘Anthropocene’ clay we have dug from near the Horse Hill site. The act of digging the clay has been an opportunity for care-full engagement with the landscape, and an invitation to think through what distinguishes extractivism from other forms of gathering and creating with natural resources.  We were able to organise the first in a series of workshops before the Covid-19 outbreak, inviting those interested in the Horse Hill campaign for an afternoon of making with the clay inspired by reflections on the Anthropocene and using natural objects such as fossils and leaves as desired. The conversations and activities we shared in the workshop were both convivial and emotional – different from those that happen in other activist spaces such as meetings, protests or the courtroom. The campaigners expressed their appreciation for this regenerative gathering where we got to share our stories and concerns with one another whilst being creative. Community engagements with clay will continue to be developed for the upcoming Extracting Usexhibitions online and at conferences, offering a space to share the story with wider stories of contemporary extractivism from a Feminist Political Ecology perspective. 

Through these research engagements, I am uncovering different forms of extractivism that oil production is taking in Surrey. By choosing to research in my home country, I find I am more open to understanding these nuances. Here in the UK extractivism looks very different to elsewhere, largely due to our histories of colonial violence and the outsourcing of extractive industries to parts of the world with environmental and social protections less stringent than ours. Navigating these histories and my positionality are, in part, why I was attracted to this PhD project rather than those situated elsewhere. My familiarity with the culture and context means I am more easily able to become integrated with the communities, and allows me to foreground in my research how resisting the extractive industry demands substantial environmental and social resources of the affected communities in ways that are pervasive, personal and political.