The Art of Extraction: ABSTRACT
Anthropocentric society faces a multiplicity of environmental challenges, catalyzed and perpetuated by urban-industrial culture. Many of today’s perspectives and sustainable strategies cannot accommodate the challenges’ inherent complexity. Because urban-industrial society is only projected to grow, both in enormity and influence, the only viable option is to elucidate the complexity and employ it.
A potential setting in which to frame this exploration is the intersection of urbanism, landscape, and ecology –an overlap first introduced by the theories of Landscape Urbanism and Ecological Urbanism. Here, urbanization is not just discussed as an isolated phenomenon but one that is embedded within and responding to a variety of systems and scales. The methodologies of Landscape Urbanism and Ecological Urbanism also acknowledge artists and the visual arts as invaluable tools for realizing, communicating, and inspiring the new perspectives and modes of intervention needed to address the aforementioned urban complexity. Such artists who operate within this realm include Sissel Tolaas, Maya Lin, Katrin Sigurdardottir, David Maisel, Olafur Eliason, Mierle Ukeles, Suzanne Lacy, Steve Rowell, Mel Chin, and the Center for Land Use Interpretation. Case study analyses reveal many of these artists begin their investigations with provocative, searching questions situated within the realms of urbanism, landscape, and ecology. This is proceeded by relative scientific research and/or community involvement or outreach. Furthermore, the artists work within and extrapolate from a variety of other disciplines —increasing the scope and applicability of their work. The information they collect via this multidisciplinary approach is then metaphorically translated to the visual arts, where the public can not only physically or sensorially experience it, but understand and deduce its meaning and significance: public awareness being one of the more essential aspects of a sustainable society and at the root of our current struggle.
As a designer and architect, I will engage the artist’s mindset to explore the current and complex issue of resource extraction within Superior, Arizona: a topic at the core of urbanism, landscape, and ecology. While the town is not considered "urban" by standard definition, it and its surrounding landscapes are indirectly sculpted by the needs of urban society —rendering it the setting for this application. Within a group, we will begin with a searching question. We will conduct relative scientific research, engage the community of Superior, and call upon a variety of other disciplines to aid and inform our work. Through metaphor, the research and resulting discoveries will be artistically represented and composed within a designed exhibition of hopeful “things” (See Bruno Latour, “From Realpolitik to Dingpolitik”). This exhibition will theoretically take place on Superior’s currently dilapidated Main Street, amid a more accessible sphere. The eventual goal of the project is to illuminate and understand the complexities of resource extraction, specifically within Superior, while also enabling public awareness and empowerment through lucidity and comprehension.