Extraction defines Canada, at home and abroad. Of the nearly 20,000 mining projects in the world—from Africa to Asia to Latin America, more than half are Canadian-operated. Not only does the mining economy employ close to 400,000 people across the country, it contributed $52.6 billion to Canada’s GDP in 2012 alone. Globally, more than 75% of prospecting and mining companies on the planet are based in Canada. Seemingly impossible to conceive, the scale of these statistics naturally extends the logic of Canada’s historical legacy as state, nation, and now, as global resource empire. “Not only do imperial colonial powers redefine territories”, according to historian of science Suzanne Zeller, “they also breed new empires, replaying their cycles of dissemination and domination over and over again.” In other words, Canada has become a preeminent resource base and operating platform for the world’s mining industry. If, as Harold Innis described in 1930, “Canada supplied the British and American economies through the exploitation of its considerable bounty”, then it has now become Empire in its own right, home to a legion of its own surface mining firms whose practices reflect Canadian power and presence everywhere on the surface of the planet. As this extractive culture grows, the representation of these complex ecologies of extraction needs to be fully engaged, examined, and exhibited through new languages, discourses and forms of imagination as we move towards the 22nd century.
Opening a wider lens on the cultures of extraction, the project intends to develop a deeper discourse on the complex ecologies of resource extraction. From gravel to gold, across highways and circuit boards, every single aspect of contemporary urban life today is mediated by mineral resources. Through the multimedia language of film, print, and exhibition, the landscape of resource extraction—from exploration, to mining, to processing, to construction, to recycling, to reclamation—can be explored and revealed as the bedrock of contemporary urban life.
The project is a response to Canada’s contemporary culture and global economy of resource extraction. Canadian transnational corporations currently operate close to 9,000 mining projects worldwide, in nearly every country, continent, and ocean on the planet. As a multimedia initiative, the project explores the current and historic legacy of resource extraction from a Canadian perspective with an installation, film, and book featuring prominent creators and influential thinkers, past and present, on Canada’s global resource empire. Co-edited by Pierre Bélanger and Nina-Marie Lister, the book features an array of authors and scholars from across fields of landscape, urbanism, geography, arts, ecology, media, literature, architecture, engineering, science, industry, business and culture. The project will be launched at the Venice Architecture Biennale in 2016, then tour across a series of resource regions throughout Canada to mark the 150th anniversary of Confederation in 2017.
EXTRACTION is Led by landscape urbanist Pierre Bélanger,
the team includes the design and media organization OPSYS—managed by Christopher Alton and Zannah Matson,
in collaboration with Geoffrey Thün, Kathy Velikov and Colin Ripley of the architectural firm RVTR,
Nina-Marie Lister with the Ecological Design Lab at Ryerson University,
Kelsey Blackwell of Studio Blackwell,
and design and fabrication Beites & Co.
A Walk in the Park of Empires (2016)
©2016 OPSYS / Landscape Infrastructure Lab
Modeling, animation. video editing and sound sampling by Estudio Altiplano and Boram Lee Jung
Track credits: Fela Kuti - One Beast Nation