"A Muddied Blue"
The project seeks to highlight the intractable and violent ecological and socio-political associations of digital worlds and 'clean' futures; to trace, compile and make visible the material affects of the virtual through its terrestrial basis, upon the bodies and ecologies of mineral extraction; to queer and subvert smooth digital aesthetics; to reveal the entangled, worldly textures and deep temporalities implicit within their construction.
It's currently estimated that the increasing market demand for mineral resources from now until 2050 will exceed all that has been extracted since the dawn of humanity to the present day1 with migrating minerals from deep ores to ingots being stored in private warehouses or imbedded within exponentially multiplying electronic products. Shifting from depleted and geopolitically charged terrestrial resources, attention is becoming increasingly focused upon the alien landscapes of the deep seabed. The silent topographical territories of seamounts, plateaus, ridges and trenches, and the minerals and metals they hold, are speculated and territorialized as a form of highly valuable stock. This is a conceived neo terra nullius of new submarine extractive industry to support near future worlds, in which antiquated colonial topographies assert themselves once more through an economic landscape of prospective extraction. This global shift towards the age of blue economy arises from the global demand of consumer tech industries and the supply, development, deployment, and storage of 'clean' energy, inciting new regimes of extraction and disturbing geologic elements of oceanic deep time. The indeterminate and fluid frontiers of the deep ocean, which have long been taken as an unruly, transgressive and mythologised territory, have become "the center stage for twenty first century geopolitical disputes, conflicts and intense rivalries fuelling the mineral scarcity narrative"2.
In this context, the ocean is a planetary space approaching limit conditions; the saturation of world(s) that appear infinite. It is also a space that is exclusively mediated; living on, through, with, and between screens. As the collection of oceanic data entails immersion without tactility, an intimacy without immediacy emerges; "a multimedia event and a sensory scramble, a layering of ocular, auditory, and corporeal disorientations"3. A Muddied Blue intends to bring these tensions of distanced and destructive near future infrastructures into the space of the screen, to complicate the technology complicit within the generation of this new blue frontier, and the entangled tensions of complex biotic worlds that inhabit this alien, deep, pressurised landscape. Itself home to the discovery of a third domain of microbial life, Archaea is believed "to harbour clues about the kinds of reactions that initiated the chemistry of life"4. The project thus muddies smooth digital aesthetics and virtual worlds within an immersive submarine screen space, compiling dispersed actors, submarine bodies and deep temporalities to be read and experienced simultaneously. It seeks to compile the extractive actors and contractors actively at play amongst contested waters beyond exclusive economic zones, a blue economy and financialization of ocean space largely obscured and unmediated within the public realm.
Farhorizon Critical minerals for the EU economy: Foresight to 2030, European Commission, 2013. ↩
Mendes, Margarida. 2019. "Mining beyond the abyss - a tactical shift in raw material politics" In Swiss Psychotropic Gold/molecular refinery. ↩
Helmreich, Stefan. 2009. "Intimate Sensing" in Simulation and its Discontents, edited by Sherry Turkle. Cambridge: MIT Press. ↩
Martin, William, John Baross, Deborah Kelley, and Michael J. Russell. 2008. "Hydrothermal Vents and the Origin of Life", Nat Rev Microbiol, No. 6. ↩