If you’re wondering whether your work is ruckus-worthy, remember that all forms of artistic expression are welcome. And keep in mind that the project includes extraction as an activity in itself and its consequences. We’re also limiting our subject matter to the extraction of natural resources, especially natural resources that are irreplaceable or extremely difficult to replace, because that is the source of our dilemma—an everyday appetite that we’ve turned into a dangerous species-wide addiction. If you wish to address cultural forms of extraction--the appropriation of language, say, or the enslavement of people--feel free to do so. But we’ve decided to restrict our efforts to the forceful removal and exploitation of things like copper and water and soil. That’s ambitious enough. Human beings certainly play an essential role in our vision but they do so in terms of social consequences. Besides encouraging bold artistic responses to the environmental impact of extraction, we want to investigate how extraction affects workers (miners, farmhands, fishers, and so on) and their communities as well as those indirectly exposed to the hazards of extraction, which tend to be the poor, minorities, neighboring populations, and indigenous people.

Also essential to our definition are scale and rate of exploitation. That’s why we employ terms like extractive industry and industrialized resource extraction. Human beings have always manipulated the environment, sometimes to ill effect, contrary to certain romantic notions about pre-historic cultures. The difference today, and it’s all the difference in the world, is that by virtue of staggering technological advances and sheer numbers we can alter—including lay waste to—ever-larger parts of the planet’s surface, and do so much faster than ever before, not to mention in ways that are irreversible, or might as well be, at least in terms of human time.

In keeping with our decentralized, self-organizing approach, each participating art venue, art group, and artist is free to determine the form that participation will assume. We’ll help by continuing to stir up interest, identifying resources and making them available, and building an interactive network of aesthetic troublemakers. As creator and catalyst, you have a great deal of latitude within that network to make your mark.

For further guidance, here’s a partial list of potential EXTRACTION subjects:

  • drilling for oil and gas (along with all aspects of the industry, from pipelines to tanker ships to refineries to all of the products made from petrochemicals)
  • surface and underground mining of coal (along with all aspects of the industry, from strip mines to coal trains to the dumping of coal ash in streams to coal-powered plants)
  • industrialized metals mining, rare earth mining, and gemstone mining (along with all aspects of the industry, from open pits to mills to tailings ponds to smelters to steel mills and manufacturing plants to construction)
  • large-scale quarrying for sand, gravel, and cut stone (along with all aspects of the industry, including transport and building)
  • the removal, diversion, damming, and privatization of fresh water on an industrial scale (along with all aspects of the industry, from dams and pumps to transportation to unsustainable consumption—swimming pools and golf courses--to the disposal of plastic bottles)
  • the removal, destruction, and translocation of soil and nutrients in large scale agriculture (and all aspects of the industry)
  • industrialized timber harvesting (and all aspects of the industry)
  • industrialized fishing and ocean harvesting (and all aspects of the industry)
  • large-scale harvesting of terrestrial animals and animal parts (and all aspects of the industry)
  • all forms of large-scale deposition (including waste piles and ponds, dumps of all kinds, and so on
  • all former sites of large-scale extractive industry, including ravaged lands and poisoned waterways, as well as places where remediation and restoration have taken place or are taking place
  • any group of people affected negatively by industrialized natural resource extraction (including workers, neighboring communities, displaced or subjugated populations, and so on)

—Edwin Dobb
May 17, 2018