Rivers can tell the most about a place where coal used to be mined. Stone crushers from the mining camp in DR Congo hold the mystery of coltan in your phone. What are the social and ecologic repercussions of mining activities, and how does the landscape change in the wake of disappearing mines? Does modernity look the same everywhere? In early September, we will present in Warsaw the performances of landscapes and bodies, which explore the consequences of extractivism, a model of development based on mass exploitation of natural resources.
The performances were created by the international art collective Kötter/Israel/Limberg in cooperation with Polish creators (Anna Ptak – dramaturgy, Marcin Lenarczyk – sound design), performers, researchers and local mine workers from Indonesia, DR Congo, Germany and Papua. Performances in Warsaw will be held at Studio Tęcza located on the premises of the Industrial Chemistry Institute where fuel samples of the Polish petroleum concern are developed.
The series of case studies devoted to the extracted resources was divided into two segments: Gold&Coal, and Water&Coltan. During each performance, the audience walks through twelve rooms where they learn the history of mining from various latitudes. Each room is a separate history, and each performance takes the audience on a journey to a different landscape. The stories of performers are accompanied by audio and documentary footage filmed in 360 degrees, which enables the viewers to see mining areas scattered across the world.
Gold&Coal transports us to the sites of former raw materials deposits and armed conflicts fought in areas where such resources were extracted. In place of open cast mines, lakes are created, and on their banks – modern housing is constructed. Slag heaps become places to escape and hang out. The miners’ ethos is replaced by the principle of developers’ attraction. Gold mined in areas occupied by the Indonesian military is the source of wealth and war. The conflict around the deposits is exacerbated alongside the armed conflict, which makes civil war a constant element of extractivist political strategies.
What is the connection between raw materials and massacres? Workers of mineral deposit sites know the cost of blood necessary to recover coltan required for modern technologies. The stories from Water&Coltan stretch from the mines of DR Congo to German rivers. Water is organically linked to every type of mining. In the Ruhr Area, there are no more mines, but the pumps keep on working. Its future is told to European audiences by the Congolese, and the rivers which used to be sewage.
landscapes and bodies is a documentary project which refers to the experiences of mine workers and inhabitants of areas where raw materials are mined. Interviews used in the video footage and performances were created during the research conducted by the artistic team. The author of documentary films used in the performances is director Daniel Kötter whose work involves the dynamics of urbanization and landscape transformation. In parallel to these performances, his film Rift Finfinnee will be screened at the 18th Millennium Docs Against Gravity Festival. It talks about the rapid modernization of the community of African periphery against the backdrop of civil wars.
Performances organised by Biennale Warszawa are a part of an international tour, in which we are supported by Goethe-Institut and the Foundation for Polish-German Cooperation.