Upcoming Events

Extractivism/Activism: Art, Activism and Ecological Extraction

Conference – Ignacio Acosta, Ravi Agarwal, Mónica Alcázar-Duarte, Tobah Aukland-Peck, Nancy Demerdash, Hit Man Gurung, Sasha Huber, Syowia Kyambi, Marie Petersmann, Julian Posada, Sheelasha Rajbhandari, Gabriela Saenger Silva, Jelena Sofronijevic, Marie Smith, Wilfred Ukpong, Mark Sealy, Bindi Vora

  • 13 to 14 March 2024
  • The Building Centre

A collaboration between the Climate & Colonialism research project at the Paul Mellon Centre and Autograph ABP.

The arts have long been concerned with highlighting the ongoing histories of resource extraction and its repercussions. This symposium asks: what next? By bringing together researchers, artists, designers and activists from a range of backgrounds, this event will consider local projects in intersectional, granular detail, to collectively re-evaluate the relationship between the arts, extraction and activism, both historically and in the present.

The two days are framed around three broad themes: Colonial and extractive histories, Reparative and fragile ecologies, Environmental justice and legal rights.

Confirmed speakers and participants include: Ignacio Acosta, Mónica Alcázar-Duarte, Tobah Aukland-Peck, Eline Benjaminsen, Nancy Demerdash, Radha D'Souza, Francisco Gallardo, Hit Man Gurung, Sasha Huber, Elias Kimaiyo, Syowia Kyambi, Adrian Lahoud, Godofredo Pereira, Marie Petersmann, Julian Posada, Sheelasha Rajbhandari, Gabriela Saenger Silva, Sakiya, Audrey Samson, Marie Smith, Jonas Staal, Gerald Torres, Wilfred Ukpong, Rahul Ranjan and others.

The symposium is convened by Sria Chatterjee (Paul Mellon Centre), Mark Sealy (Autograph) and Bindi Vora (Autograph).

Accessibility information

The Building Centre’s accessibility information can be found here.

Programme

13 March 2024 

10–10.30am Registration and coffee 
10:30–10.45am Welcome and introductions with Sria Chatterjee (Paul Mellon Centre)

LOCATING ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE 

Chair: Ravi Agarwal (artist, writer, curator and environmental campaigner)

10.45–10.55am Sheelasha Rajbhandari (artist and curator), “Untamable Dankini” (online)
10.55–11.05am HitMan Gurung (artist and curator), “What Do the Spirits of These Lands, Rivers, Forests Whisper in Our Ears?” (online)
11.05–11.15am Syowia Kyambi (artist and curator), “Split Bananas and Magical Spaces
11.15–11.30am Sahar Qawasmi (Sakiya), Title TBC 
11.30–11.50am Q&A
11.50am–12.15pm Coffee break (provided) 

IMAGING EXTRACTION 

Chair: Sria Chatterjee (Paul Mellon Centre) 

12.15–12.25pm Tobah Aukland-Peck (CUNY Graduate Center), “‘See Britain First on Shell’: Modernism, Imperialism and the British Petroleum Industry” 
12.25–12.35pm Nancy Demerdash (Albion College),Fuelling Foment: (Counter)colonial Histories of Phosphate Extraction in Tunisia”
12.35–12.45pm FRAUD, Audrey Samson and Francisco Gallardo (artist duo), “Undergrounding the Critical Mineral
12.45–12.55pm Crystal Bennes (visual artist), “Phosphate Mines and Resistance Gardens in Western Sahara”
12.55–1.15pm Q&A
1.15–2.30pm Lunch break

REPAIR/REPARATIONS  

2.30–2.50pm Gerald Torres (Yale University), Title TBC (online)
2.50–3.00pm Q&A

3.00–3.15pm Sasha Huber (visual artist researcher), performative lecture, “Reparative Interventions: Renegotiating Archive, Memory and Place”
3.15–3.30pm Adrian Lahoud (Royal College of Art), “Ngurrara II”
3.30–3.45pm Q&A
3.45–4.15pm Comfort break 

ECOLOGY POLITICS

Chair: Mark Sealy (Autograph) 

4.15–4.30pm Wilfred Ukpong (interdisciplinary artist, practice-based researcher – Blazing Century Studios), “Blazing Century 1: Working at the Intersection of Extractive Capitalism/Visual Activism”
4.30–4.50pm Mark Sealy and Wilfred Ukpong in conversation 
4.50–5pm Closing remarks
5–6pm Drinks reception at Building Centre 

14 March 2024

10.30–11am Registration and coffee
11–11.10am Welcome and introductions with Bindi Vora (Autograph)

FOREST RIGHTS

Chair: Bindi Vora (Autograph)

11.10–11.25am Eline Benjaminsen (artist) and Elias Kimaiyo (land rights activist), Title TBC 
11.25–11.35am Rahul Ranjan (University of Edinburgh), “Forests of Memory: Rights of Indigenous Peoples and Claim Making in India”
11.35–11.45am Q&A
11.45am–12noon Comfort break

ANCESTRAL FUTURES

Chair: Nina Kolowratnik (Ghent University)

12noon–12.20pm Ignacio Acosta (Royal College of Art / Uppsala University), film screening and discussion of “From Mars to Venus: Activism of the Future
12.20–12.30pm Godofredo Pereira (Royal College of Art), “The Puna Is Not a Triangle: Militant Research and Anti-extractivism”
12.30–12.40pm Gabriela Saenger Silva (Liverpool John Moores University), “Art As Catalyst: Exploring the Fragility and Activism Through ‘We Live Like Trees Inside the Footsteps of our Ancestors’”
12.40–1pm Q&A
1–2.30pm Lunch break

LITIGATION / CLIMATE CRIMES

Chair: Jelena Sofronijevic (producer, writer and researcher)

2.30–2.40pm Marie Petersmann (London School of Economics), “Black Ecofeminism in Court: Litigating for Climate Justice and Reparations”
2.40–2.55pm Radha D’Souza (lawyer, academic, writer and activist) and Jonas Staal (artist and propaganda researcher), Legal Imaginaries Beyond Extraction: Court for Intergenerational Climate Crimes
2.55–3.15pm Q&A
3.15–3.25pm Marie Smith (visual artist/Kingston University), “The Wanderer” (performance)
3.25–3.40pm Comfort break

DATA ECOLOGIES

Chair: Stephanie Hankey (Curator and Co-founder, Tactical Tech)

3.40–3.50pm Mónica Alcázar-Duarte (artist), film screening of “U K'ux Kaj / Heart of Sky, Mayan God of Storms”
3.50–4pm Respondent: Julian Posada (Yale University)
4–4.15pm Mónica Alcázar-Duarte and Julian Posada in conversation
4.15–4.30pm Final remarks
6–9pm OPTIONAL: Self-led visit to Autograph to view Wilfred Ukpong: Future-Cosmos/Niger-Delta and Mónica Alcázar-Duarte: Digital Clouds Don’t Carry Rain. There will be a fifteen-minute introduction to the exhibition by Autograph staff at 6.30pm

About the speakers

  • Ignacio_Acosta_SQUARE

    Ignacio Acosta is a Chilean-born artist and researcher who works with photography and video in territories under pressure from extractive industries. His multilayered collaborative practice and spatial installations seek to connect audiences with these complex but critical concerns. Ignacio is a postdoctoral researcher at Centre for Multidisciplinary Studies on Racism (CEMFOR), Uppsala University, where he leads the collaborative research project Indigenous Perspectives on Forest Fires, Drought and Climate Change: Sápmi funded by the Swedish Research Council for Sustainable Development (FORMAS). He is also a research associate at the Royal College of Art (RCA), London, as part of Solid Water, Frozen Time, Future Justice: Photography and Mining in the Andean Glaciers, a visual research project developed with Louise Purbrick and Xavier Ribas (Traces of Nitrate) and funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC). 

  • Ravi headshot

    Ravi Agarwal (New Delhi) has an interdisciplinary practice as an artist, writer, curator and environmental campaigner. His research-based work mediates between art and activism to address the entangled questions of nature and its futures using photography, video, text and installation. His work has been shown widely, including at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Asian Art (December 2022), the Biennials of Havana (2019), Yinchuan (2018), Kochi (2016), Sharjah (2013), Indian Highway (2009) and Documenta XI (2002) amongst others, besides numerous solo and group exhibitions. He curated New Natures, A Terrible Beauty is Born at the Goethe Institute and CSMVS Museum, Mumbai (January 2022), Imagined Documents at the Les Recontres d' Arles (July 2022),  and the project on multispecies worlds Samtal Jameen, Samtal Jameer (www.multispeciesart.org). He is the curatorial advisor for the forthcoming exhibition Carbon (August 2023) at the Science Gallery, Bengaluru, India. Ravi works alongside the founder and director of the environmental NGO Toxics Link based in New Delhi, and The Shyama Foundation’s Shared Ecologies programme, which supports emerging initiatives at the intersection of art and ecology in India. www.sharedecologies.org at www.raviagarwal.com) His new photobook, The Power PlantFragments in Time, is currently under publication. He has been invited as a co-convenor for the Bergan Assembly 2025. 

  • Alcazar-Duarte, Monica_cr-Mark-Thiessen_National-Geographic_Foundation_a

    Mónica Alcázar-Duarte is a Mexican-British multidisciplinary visual artist whose work acknowledges her Indigenous heritage while exploring current ideals of progress. She embraces themes related to science and technology and their influence over society and the natural world.  In her projects she mixes images and new technologies, such as augmented reality, to create multilayered work, producing meaning through seemingly disconnected narratives. Mónica’s work references Western society’s obsession with speed, expansion and resource accumulation as an index of advancement at a time in which ecological disaster looms, and considers other ways of seeing, knowing and being in the world. In 2023 she was nominated for the Prix Pictet, and her work was acquired by the V&A. She has also been awarded a National Geographic storytelling grant to complete a film in early 2024. In 2022 she was awarded, a Wayfinder Award from National Geographic, as well as a residency with Light Work through Autograph Gallery in London. Mónica has been granted fellowships by the MEAD Foundation, Ampersand Foundation, Bar-Tur Foundation and the British Arts Council. Her work has been exhibited and collected throughout Europe, Mexico and the United States in places such as the Museum of Modern Art in New York, Autograph Gallery, the V&A Museum in London and the Wilhelm-Hack-Museum in Germany. 

  • Aukland-Peck, Tobah_headshot 2021

    Tobah Aukland-Peck is a PhD candidate in art history at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. Her research on British nineteenth- and twentieth-century art investigates themes of environmental change and pollution, the industrial provenance of artistic materials and the integration of working-class perspectives in the visual arts. She has published essays on related topics in Grey Room and with Courtauld Books Online. Her dissertation "Mineral Landscapes: British Art and Extraction 19371975" addresses artistic encounters with extractive sites and proposes a relationship between the subject matter of mining and the abstract experiments of British modernism and postwar art.  

  • Nancy Demerdash-headshot (1) (3)

    Nancy Demerdash is an assistant professor of art history in the Department of Art & Art History and the Associate Director of the Prentiss M. Brown Honors Program at Albion College. At Albion, she teaches a diverse array of courses in global modern and contemporary art and architecture. She received her Master of Science in Architecture Studies (SMArchS) degree from the Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and her Ph.D. from the Department of Art & Archaeology at Princeton University. She has published widely and is currently working on her book manuscript, The Architectural Politics of Tunisian Modernity: Reconstruction, Decolonization, and Development, contracted with the University of Nebraska Press (France Overseas: Studies in Empire and Decolonization series), due out in 2025. 

  • Hit Man_headshot (1)

    Hit Man Gurung (b. 1984) is an artist and curator based in Kathmandu by way of Lamjung. Gurung’s diverse practice concerns itself with the fabric of human mobilities, frictions of history, and failures of revolutions. While rooted in the recent history of Nepal, his works unravel a complex web of kinships and extraction across geographies that underscore the exploitative nature of capitalism. These narratives revolve around the lived experiences of migrants caught between a dehumanizing transnational labor-based industry and an apathetic nation-state. He furthermore invokes Indigenous methodologies and epistemologies to fundamentally reconfigure contemporary artistic praxis. Gurung is one of the curators for 17th Biennale Jogja 2023 and Colomboscope 2024. He was co-curator for the Kathmandu Triennale 2077 (2022), Nepal Pavilion at Venice Biennale (2022), ‘Garden of Ten Seasons’ at Savvy Contemporary, Berlin (2022) and ’12 Baishakh,’ Bhaktapur (2015) alongside Sheelasha Rajbhandari. He has also co-founded ArtTree Nepal, an artist collective and Kalā Kulo, an arts initiative. He has participated in exhibitions at SAVVY Contemporary, Berlin (2020); Biennale of Sydney (2020); Artspace Sydney (2019); Weltmuseum Wien (2019); Kathmandu Triennale (2017); Yinchuan Biennale (2016); Para Site, Hong Kong (2016); Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art, Brisbane (2015-16); and Dhaka Art Summit (2014, 2016, 2018, 2020).

  • Sasha_Huber_photo_Kai_Kuusisto_web

    Sasha Huber is a Helsinki-based, multidisciplinary visual artist-researcher of Swiss-Haitian heritage. Sensitive to the subtle threads connecting history and the present, she uses and responds to archival material within a layered creative practice that encompasses performance-based interventions, video, photography and collaborations. Sasha frequently reclaims – aware of its symbolic significance – the compressed-air staple gun as an artistic “weapon”, tapping into its potential to renegotiate unequal power dynamics. She is known for her artistic research contribution to the Demounting Louis Agassiz campaign which aims to dismantle the glaciologist’s lesser-known but contentious racist heritage. Sasha also often works in a creative partnership with artist Petri Saarikko with whom she initiated the long-term project Remedies Universe. 

    She holds an MA in visual culture from the Aalto University and is presently undertaking a practice-based PhD at Zurich University of the Arts. Sasha has had numerous solo presentations, artist residencies and participated in international exhibitions and festivals, including the fifty-sixth Venice Biennial in 2015. In 2021 her solo exhibition tour YOU NAME IT began at Kunstinstituut Melly in Rotterdam and continued to The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery in Toronto; Autograph in London in 2022/23; and Turku Art Museum in Finland in 2023. In 2018 the Arts Promotion Centre Finland awarded Sasha the State Art Award in the category visual arts and in 2022 she received a multi-year artist grant. 

  • KYAMBI, Syowia Headshot Photo Credit_Marlon Hall_Venice_2022

    Syowia Kyambi a distinguished facilitator at the Transart Institute and visiting professor at the Academy of Fine Arts Nuremberg, is a co-founder of Untethered Magic, an initiative supporting contemporary arts in Nairobi. Her work merges artists with creatives across disciplines, fostering knowledge building and process-based practices. Kyambi’s artistry employs photography, video, drawing and sculpture to explore cultural identities and contemporary human experiences. Her installations narrate stories and activate objects, addressing issues of loss, memory, race and gender. Kyambi’s approach takes aim at the politics of the time and its legacy todayquestioning what is remembered, what is archived and how we see the world anew. 

  • Marie Petersmann is an assistant professorial research fellow at the LSE Law School (UK). Her project Anthropocene Legalities: Reconfiguring Legal Relations Within More-than-human Worlds is funded by the Dutch Research Council (20222025). It explores new strategies for reparative legal actions and climate justice by focusing on de-anthropocentric, decolonial and dehumanist legalities. The project engages works from critical ecofeminism, posthumanism and Black studies to reconfigure the material, subjective, spatial and temporal boundaries of environmental laws in a changing climate. In 2022, she was Resident Fellow at the Istituto Svizzero in Rome (20222023). Her book When Environmental Protection and Human Rights Collide was published with Cambridge University Press in 2022. 

  • Julian Posada is an assistant professor of American Studies at Yale University and a member of the Yale Law School’s Information Society Project and the Yale Institute for Foundations of Data Science. His research integrates theories and methods from information science, sociology and human-computer interaction to examine how technology is developed and used within various historical, cultural and social contexts. His current project investigates the dynamics between human labour and data production in the artificial intelligence industry. Incorporating elements of Latin American critical thought, this study emphasises the experiences of workers in the region who are employed by digital platforms to produce machine learning data and validate algorithmic outputs. 

  • Rajbhandaris, Sheelasha_headshot (1)

    Sheelasha Rajbhandari (b. 1988) is an artist and curator based out of Kathmandu. Her works draw upon an embodied and speculative lineage of femininities to question the positioning of women across time, landscapes, and cosmologies. Her practice is a provocation to reflect beyond neo-liberal conception of time in order to decenter patriarchal structures that perpetuate cycles of industrial extraction and individual exhaustion. For her, art-making is about making space for collective action. This questioning feeds into her recent artistic and curatorial approach that recompose notions of Indigeneity, gender, worth, and productivity. Rajbhandari is one of the curators for 17th Biennale Jogja 2023 and Colomboscope 2024. She co-curated the Kathmandu Triennale 2077, Nepal Pavilion at Venice Biennale (2022), ‘Garden of Ten Seasons’ at Savvy Contemporary, Berlin (2022) and ’12 Baishakh,’ Bhaktapur (2015) alongside Hit Man Gurung. Her textile installation was exhibited at Museum of Art and Design; NewYork (2022), Footscray Art Center; Melbourne ( 2022). Her installation in the traveling exhibition “A beast, a god and a line” (2018-2020) was presented at Para Site, Hong Kong; TS1, Yangon; Museum of Modern Art, Warsaw; Kunsthall, Trondheim; and MAIIAM Contemporary Art Museum, Chiang Mai. She has also been an artist in residence at the Bellas Artes Projects (2019) and Para Site (2017). She has furthermore exhibited at Weltmuseum Wien (2019); and Kathmandu Triennale (2017). As a part of her collective, she has been a part of Dhaka Art Summit (2020) and Biennale of Sydney (2020). She is also the co-founder of ArtTree Nepal, an artist collective and Kalā Kulo, an arts initiative. 

  • Gabriela Saenger Silva is a Brazilian-UK-based arts practitioner, educator and researcher specialising in education and socially engaged practices. She is a PhD candidate at the Exhibition Research Lab at Liverpool John Moores University. Gabriela was operations coordinator for the Mercosul Biennial pedagogical and public programme from 2007 to 2013, guest curator for Bienal de São Paulo in 2018 and mediation coordinator for the Liverpool Biennial in 2016 and 2018, where she was responsible for the experimental programme The City Is a School. 

  • Jelena Sofronijevic - Headshot (SML) (1)

    Jelena Sofronijevic (@empirelinespodcast, @jelsofron) is a producer, writer and researcher, who makes content at the intersections of cultural history, politics and the arts. Beyond their works in print, they are the producer of EMPIRE LINES, a podcast which uncovers the unexpected flows of empires through art and historicity, a new series of audio walking tours, exploring how cities got to be the way they are, recorded on location in London (2022) and Tokyo (2023). You can listen to EMPIRE LINES on all podcast platforms, and follow on Instagram and Twitter. Their full portfolio of work is available on their website and social media. 

  • Marie Smith_headshot_300 dpi

    Marie Smith (she/they) is a neurodivergent visual artist and writer born, living and working in London. Marie graduated in 2017 with an MA in History of Art with Photography at Birkbeck, University of London. Being a neurodivergent person with dyspraxia and anxiety has informed how they navigate the world. Their practice incorporates digital and analogue photography alongside text as a form of visual language that addresses identity, nature, sustainability, mental health and wellbeing. Marie utilises low-toxic plant, food or herb-based developers to process their analogue film. Marie is an associate lecturer at Kingston University London.   

  • Wilfred

    Wilfred Ukpong is a French Nigerian interdisciplinary artist and researcher whose distinctive socially engaged practice utilises several interwoven mediums, including photography, film, sculpture, performance, architecture and creative workshops, to tackle pertinent social issues with community participation and intervention. Wilfred’s photographic and art film projects have been exhibited at Alliance Française/Mike Adenuga Centre (Nigeria), FotoFest, Houston (USA), Institut français du Nigeria Abuja (Nigeria), MARKK Museum Hamburg (Germany), Pipe Factory Glasgow (UK), Royal Society of Arts, London (UK) and Weltmuseum Vienna (Austria) amongst others. His long-term project Blazing Century 1 received a special grant from the Prince Claus Fund Amsterdam (2010); his film Future World (2017) won the Golden City Gates Excellence Award at ITB Berlin (2018) and was presented at the Nigerian Senate to encourage environmental change in the Niger Delta. Wilfred received his BA/MA in Fine Arts from École Supérieure d'Art Lorient, France, and his PhD from Oxford Brookes University (UK). 

  • Mark Sealy.  Photograph courtesy of Steve  Pyke  #1

    Dr Mark Sealy OBE is Executive Director of Autograph (1991–) and Professor, Photography, Rights and Representation at University Arts London – London College of Communication. Mark is interested in the relationship between art, photography and social change, identity politics, race and human rights. He has written for many of the world’s leading photographic journals, produced numerous artist publications, curated exhibitions, and commissioned photographers and filmmakers worldwide. Lawrence & Wishart have published his more recent critical writings on photography. These titles include Photography: Race, Rights and Representation, published 2022 and Decolonising the Camera: Photography in Racial Time, published 2019.

  • Bindi Vora _ Courtesy of Zöe Maxwell

    Bindi Vora is a British-Indian artist working with expanded photography, associate lecturer at London College of Communication and curator at Autograph. Since joining Autograph, she has curated Eric Gyamfi (2023), Poulomi Basu: Fireflies (2022), co-curated Sasha Huber: You Name It (2022), Care I Contagion I Community – Self & Other (2021–2022); Lola Flash: [sur]passing and Maxine Walker: Untitled (both 2019) and contributed to a series of in-conversations with multidisciplinary artists include Mónica Alcázar-Duarte, Maryam Wahid, Tobi Alexandra Falade, David Uzochukwu amongst others. She has independently curated Poulomi Basu: Centralia for Recontres d’Arles Louis Roederer Discovery Award (2020) and Let’s Go Through This Again (2018).