Black Ecologies: Performing Art in the Extraction Zone

The project aims to build artistic research methods to examine Extractivism and ecology.

Three people dressed in red, green and orange overalls on the beach. The sea and some green trees can be seen in the background.
Lost Islands, performative expeditions at the Helsinki Biennial 2021.

Introduction

The project explores three significant stages in human history that characterizes extraction of minerals and metals by film, performance and installation. First, it investigates the capture of common lands, the laboring human, and metallurgical techniques by colonialism and indigenous territories for metals, minerals and energy extraction. Second, it explores the conquest of knowledge and body movements by mechanization into modern mining technologies and infrastructure. Third, it examines the transformation of these mining technologies into automation and Artificial Intelligence (AI).

The combined state of examining these is the emergence of a Black Ecology – the study of relationships between the subjugated human and the ascendent inhuman in midst of a climate crisis. The project results in art productions that drive the search for artistic performative methods to best probe Extractivism, and publications that analyze and document novel artistic approaches to ecology and environmental damage. The project consists of 3 inter-linked artistic investigations in a duration of 3 years. Each part comprises of both historical research and artistic experimentation.

The first part, “Bodies of Extractivism” (Year 1, 2021–2022) deals with history and theory, concentrating on the origin stories of extraction, from colonial labor strategies to the appropriation of indigenous knowledge, from metallurgical techniques to artisanal mining. The historical and theoretical focus is on the performative body in the act of extraction.

In Year 2 (2022–2023), “Machines of Extractivism” explores the second enfolding of common knowledge and the subjugated body into mechanization. It examines the history and nature of how extraction techniques and extractive body movements are transformed into machines and engines of capitalism. Here, the focus is on industrial mining machines and their performative movements.

Finally, “Artificial Extractivism” (Year 3, 2023–2024) examines how mechanization and modern mining technologies are turned by corporations into automation and AI. This constitutes the absorption of extractive knowledge and techniques gathered in the previous centuries into the realm of software, artificial intelligence, robotics and virtual reality. It also constitutes the enclosure of common land into extractive territories of human- exclusion zones and machine landscapes. The historical and theoretical research is aimed at automation and AI, and how they manipulate the performative body in the act of extraction.

Researcher

Samir Bhowmik, DA, is a multi-disciplinary artist and researcher. He received a Doctor of Arts (Art & Design) from Aalto University, Finland, and a Master of Architecture from the University of Maryland, United States. Bhowmik’s artistic research examines Extractivism, Cultural Memory and the Environment. His recent performative project ‘Lost Islands’ was part of the Helsinki Biennial 2021. In 2020, Bhowmik collaborated with American artist Lenore Malen in the performance film project “Where From Here”. Bhowmik has published articles on media, ecology, art and performance in several international journals and received funding since 2015 from the Finnish Cultural Foundation and the Kone Foundation.

Contact information for the research project

    • Samir Bhowmik

    • Tutkijatohtori, Taiteellinen tutkimus Kuvataideakatemia, Kuvataideakatemia

Project name

Black Ecologies: Performing Art in the Extraction Zone

Time

09/2021-12/2024

Funder

The project is funded by Kone Foundation and the Academy of Fine Arts, Uniarts Helsinki.