A Counter-Exhibition & Counter-Monument for the 2016 Venice Architecture Biennale Exploring the Scales, Spaces, Systems & States of Canada as Global Resource Empire & Largest Extraction Nation on the Planet.
By uncovering layers and layers of entangled, complex histories of Canada, the exhibition reveals how contemporary processes of extraction are deeply rooted in ideologies of colonization.
On the Surface of the State: a bird's eye view of the Giardini reveals a sculpted map of the Earth where visitors kneel down and look through the ground to explore 800 years of extraction history.
Between Empires, in the heart of the Giardini: at the junction of French, UK, and German Pavilions, the Canadian Exhibition is first project installed 'outside' in the Biennale's history since 1975.
1851, Counterposed: views of the exterior display of material resource wealth of the British Empire (including Canada, India, West Indies) during the Great Exhibition & World Fair in London, England.
Canada as Colonial Hinterland: large slabs of stone, giant ore bodies, and lush animal pelts of adorn the Canadian Exhibition as imperial representation of colonial treasures.
"We Hold A Vaster Empire Than Has Been," England communicates its vast imperial geography of colonial hinterlands on a 1898 XMAS stamp, placing Canada at the center of its global resource wealth...
...an empire so large, so emergent, it is barely even recognizable today.
Ground preparations underway as Sound Team ENDAR makes final checks.
Opening Minutes: the Curator signals to sound manager to 'up' volume as Commissioner Catherine Crowston from the Art Gallery of Alberta introduces Canadian Ambassador to Italy Peter McGovern.
Canonical image from ArchDaily Photographer Laurian Ghinitoiu at moment of inauguration prior to the unveiling of the EXTRACTION Exhibition.
The zenith of the Opening Ceremony with the powerful Spoken Word, "140 Years of the Indian Act," by Eriel Tchekwie Deranger from Treaty 8 Lands, Northern Alberta.
Inaugural Speech: Visual Arts Director Sylvie Gilbert from the Canada Council for the Arts , Commissioner Catherine Crowston from the Art Gallery of Alberta, with Canadian Ambassador Peter McGovern.
Kissing the Ground? Canadian Ambassador to Italy Peter McGovern honors and inaugurates the exhibition as its first onlooker peering through the gold stake to view film located below ground.
Eager and impressed, Ambassador McGovern assists a young boy from Turkey anxiously awaiting his turn to see through the golden stake and view the underground exhibition.
A Crowd of Friends & Supporters: Alessandra Ponte, David D'Arcy, Mohsen Mostafavi, Homa Fajardi, Eriel Deranger, Léa-Catherine Szacka, Jeremy Guth, Bruce Kuwabara, Lori Livingstone, Thomas Woltz...
In all her glory, Canadian architectural icon Phyllis Lambert from the Canadian Centre for Architecture honors the exhibition as the second inaugural visitor amidst an excited, entranced crowd.
Striking a perfect kneeling pose (notice the classic, cross-legged yoga formation for stability).
Atlanta Architects Merrill Elam and Mack Scogin share joyful but serious laughs with Ecologist Nina-Marie Lister, Project Manager Chris Alton, and Philantrophist Jeremy Guth.
Foreign Correspondent for CBC's Rome Office, Megan Williams, makes a nice surprise visit to preview the opening of the exhibition.
One by one, the exhibition opens to the public where the histories of extraction slowly reveal themselves to visitors for the next 185 days of the 15th Architecture Biennale.
In the Shadows of the Pines and Plane Trees: a fleeting moment from the air of Opening Day, outdoors, at the Canadian Pavilion, taken by German Co-Curator Felix Torkar from German Pavilion rooftop.
A surprise drop-in on the first preview day, with superstar architect Bjarke Ingels (BIG)...
...as Canadian-American Philantropist Jeremy Guth dashes a glance at the film, in textbook sans-pli, fully-suited form...
...some return visitors, such as CBC Rome Reporter Megan Williams, come back for a second look at the film later in the day, to learn more from the histories of extraction...
...while others, in a random but not entirely predictable fashion, strike befuddling headstands and yoga poses for the crowd...
...some of the best moments captured on Instagram #EXTRACTIONEMPIRE ...
...and when the heat reaches 36°C in mid-August, the EXTRACTION Team shot micro-films and short-sound clips of cicadas in the background of visitors seeking the cool shade of the Giardini.
...other nice surprises included LA/London filmmaker Liam Young from SCI-ARC who dropped in on EXTRACTION, then looking up enthralled...
...as Special Security Italian Police gives a total stare-down...
...Colombian Architect Luis Callejas shares a few moments of long shadows and minutes of film screening before dusk...
...some days outpaced expectations with daily visitors numbering between 50 during the week, and 500 on busy weekends...
...nearly 60 people an hour, 1 person every minute...
...with brilliant people like Architectural Historian and original Venetian Alessandra Ponte from Montreal waiting patiently, peering in at day's end...
...Canadian-Dutch theorist Mark Pimlott dives in...
...as visitors become more acquainted, a new level of comfort with the ground sets in,. These three architects from Milan get intimate, lying flat to take in the film on a calm, quiet, cloudy day...
...but come rain or shine, the resilience of our EXTRACTION Team never waned, as first interpreter Sam Gillis shows during a very wet day and solid downpour...
...and when possible, others stretched out time in for the full film. Here, Noah Johnstone from the UK Team takes the full 13 minutes to watch the entire reel as onlookers patiently look on...
...other curators and creators joined in...
...of all ages, places, and poses...
...yet, of all the visitors, children intuitively understand and engage without doubt or inhibition, an exhibition purposely under-designed to attract...
...absorb, appreciate, and cultivate the magnetic horizontality of the ground.
A preliminary prototype and digital print of a survey stake is conceived by using dimensions and specifications from the National Standards of Canada Lands Survey.
The survey stake as preeminent instrument of territorialization, and possibly, of deterritorialization.
Prototypes of the survey stake are developed and tests are performed with varying dimensions, tolerances, configurations; made from cardboard laser cut-out to 3D printed ABS, to silver and gold casts.
The emergent idea of a hole converts the survey stake into a small oculus. The process of casting alternative materials begins...
Cast in solid 18-karat gold, the survey stake becomes a monument...and potentially, a counter-monument.
Here, Vancouver-based Hume Atelier welds and polishes the stake made with 100% fair-trade, fair-mined gold, supplied by Patrick Schein (trader/refiner in Paris, Alliance for Responsible Mining).
Final polishing of the stake's underside showing geographic coordinates and symbolic inscriptions.
Driven into the heart of empires, the material ephemerality of the gold stake augments and amplifies the everyday imagination of the power emanating from the history of the ground as territory.
All faces—top, bottom, rim, inside, inscribed.
Inscriptions embedded in the survey stake reveal dense layers of historic references and subversion of common royal, geologic symbolism.
Note: when two or more broad arrows are opposed, they indicate a process of decommissioning, placed 'out of commission,' or of deterritorialization, through 'self-cancellation.'
Historic references to the "broad arrow," royal mark of the British Monarch used since the 11-13th centuries to claim property or to mark off and delineate territory.
Subverting the imperial cypher and monarchist motto of the British Empire 'Dieu et Mon Droit,' the stake is engraved with brave intention 'maxime valet terra'...the greatest power is land.
By plotting the global extents of Canadian mining operations worldwide, the map of the world reveals an empire of extraction on every continent and every ocean in the world. (Canada/Australia, bottom)
An extractive geological pangea.
Scaled at 1 to 1 billion, this half-scale model and map of the world prior to test fitting.
...testing a pale-colored, exterior-grade Corian material, with an off-white, bone-like effect.
Urbanist John Van Nostrand drops in on the procress of fabrication, with Ghazal Jafari and Hernán Bianchi-Benguria, to lend fresh eyes to the scale of exhibition components in progress.
Peering below ground, tests are made to gauge and evaluate different openings in the map surface for sight and sound effects.
A dry-fit and test-run in Venice by Project Manager, Zannah Matson, during low morning light conditions in the Giardini. The 1/2" depth of the map works well, but the diameter will have to double.
Alignments and positions in all directions of the central Giardini are tested. located and relocated. In front of the UK Pavilion,...
...the French Pavilion...
...and the main central axis and allée of the Giardini.
Early prototyping, with Zannah Matson and Carlo Urmy (above), to Steven Beites' fabrication workshop (below) with Filip Tisler.
Fabrication Lead, Stephen Beites, with Technologist Filip Tisler, compile final instructions before packaging components for shipping.
Time expires quickly between the test run in March, final fabrication in April, and final shipment in May. Between shop and cargo, the office-studio-lab turns into shambles.
Air Canada Cargo Team perform overnight logistical magic and ship with the essential 'Carnet ATA' from Toronto to Venice unscathed and duty-free in a rapidfire 24-hour turnaround.
In mid-May, the RVTR Team mobilizes with Kathy Velikov, Colin Ripley and Geoff Thün, assembling and installing the substructure, 9" below grade.
The waffle substructure in place.
Leveled, and propped for drainage, with a barely perceptible 1% incline, installation of the 4-part circular disk proceeds...
Precisely adjusted and graded by RVTR, the disc slightly slopes northwest for gentle runoff while maintaining a flush appearance with the ground...
...a perfect landing in the cool shade of the Giardini.
Ready for testing: embroidered sand-filled pillows, sewn and detailed by Zannah and Cheryl Matson are the last, final touches. A comfortable kneeling pad doubles up as bar scale at 1:1 billion...
...to better understand the world up close, from the ground.
Medium of Empire: the radiant sheen of beaver fur (the capital of French & British Empires) laid out in the shining sunlight of the Giardini covering the exhibition before the official opening.
Cartographic colonization and imperial appropriation of the beaver as assembly line worker, industrious engineer, and policing architect, in detail of Nicholas de Fer's 1698 map "L’Amérique."
Beaver fur from boreal forests of Canada as instrument of imperial representation found in military dress or civilian fashion across Europe, including the British top hat (Castorologia, 1892).
The 1851 postage stamp designed by engineer Sandford Fleming subverting imperial convention by replacing the image of the Queen (Victoria Regina) with the image of the industrious beaver.
The lush, medium brown color of the hooped, heavy beaver fur pelts (castor canadensis) supplied from Northeastern Canada, stacked and lined up for layout, prior to stretching and stitching.
On site layout, configuring, stitching, and detailing of the beaver pelts by landscape architect Zannah Matson.
Early diagram of concentric configuration of 18 to 24 beaver pelts prior to installation: skins, on skins, on ground.
The final, spiraling configuration of pelts covering the ground of exhibition and platform before official opening.
A few final adjustments.
300 Years of Imperial History: a boy from Norway feels the natural beaver fleece and fur before the opening, a material currency on which trading companies were built and empires grown.
The ore displayed and stockpiled as a blockade in front the Canadian Exhibition was sourced from a gold mine in Sardinia (IT), abandoned by a Canadian mining company after the 2009 financial crisis.
Between the arsenic leaching process piles and the acid mine drainage basins, at the inoperative Furtei gold mine.
Furtei's geological map reveals extensive but very deep deposits of gold and copper in the headwaters of S'Allumina River, an agricultural region north of Cagliari, on the island of Sardinia, Italy.
Inside the site office of IGEA SpA, the regional authority in charge of the reclamation and restoration of the Furtei gold mine in its historic context of mining the Sardinian region.
Sardinia features 7 geomineral parks designated by UNESCO, amidst a region of active prehistoric mines that sit at the center of the former Roman Empire in the Mediterranean region.
On site, chief geologist Massimo Benedetti explains the processes of acid mine drainage management, erosion control, and complexities of plant propagation.
Regional Project Liaison & Sardinian Architect Alessandra Lai peers into a geologist's lens to see fine grain speckles of gold, but mostly copper and pyrite, in the ore concentrate from Furtei.
Fool's Gold: most of the visible mineral content is pyrite with specks of copper. At 1 part per billion, the gold mineral content is invisible to the naked eye, even at 30X magnification.
The area of the Furtei mine referred to as "Cyanide Beach," a confined area for mineral residue from the leaching process located downstream, separating gold content from mined ore.
The Furtei Gold Mine from above, in the agricultural valley region of the S'Allumina River and central mountain region of Sardinia.
Engineering of Blockade (2016, above) vs. Architecture of Appropriation (1958, below): obstructing the Canadian Pavilion's architectural misrepresentation of indigenous construction.
The Canadian National Pavilion built in 1958 by Italian, anti-internationalist firm BBPR, profiled as "quirky and idiosyncratic" in Michelangelo Sabatino's 2007 article "A Wigwam in Venice."
The 2m high blockade sequesters the status of the National Canadian Pavilion (dubbed "not a good exhibition space" by Phyllis Lambert in 1996) to an inoperative background and sedate state.
Precisely surveyed, elegantly engineered, and carefully constructed, the 30 bags of bulk gold ore are hand-packed as gesture of resistance and defiance to the empire of state.
The base and the substructure: a blockade elevated to the status of low art.
The prototype structure, then the assembly line of packing of the blockade over 2 long weeks.
RVTR, and Bag Supply Company Inc., ensure total safety and secure support.
Long days turn into long nights for the EXTRACTION Team led by Project Managers Zannah Matson and Chris Alton, working with Sam Gillis, hand-packing each one of the 1-ton bags of gold ore from Furtei.
The blockade is finally completed on the night of May 23rd, as the next day reveals an interpretive wall where the concentration of the ore—at 1 part per billion—tells a little more.
The Blockade, in full form: in front of the closed Pavilion, the ore bags are stacked and filled with a story of an abandoned gold mine in Sardinia (IT) by a bankrupt Canadian mining company...
Palettes left over from the bulk transport shipment become the perfect base station for exhibition interpretation, an outdoor library of EXTRACTION materials is created in the Giardini...
...where stories of empire connect the dots, for inquiring minds and inquisitive visitors, between histories of extraction and ideologies of colonization.
...interpretation begins with visitors and interpreters led by Sam Gillis (NS) and Emanuela Innelli (VCE), then Aya Abdallah (QC), Olga Semenovych (ON), and Chella Strong (MA) 'til November's end.
...a story that is more, than just about the sum total of the ore...
...where extraction is more, than just about mines...
...and geology is more, than just about rocks...
Between Mine and Mineral: the story of Furtei printed on the back side of mini ore bags produced by Hubco for the Canadian Exhibition, a pocket-size narrative of empire.
A short extract from Victorian-era historian Suzanne Zeller's 2001 essay, "The Colonial World as Geological Metaphor," opens the catalog with clear, powerful intention about land, law, labor, life.
Beautifully printed and bound in Italy by Verona Libri, with a duotone color whose fluorescence is typically used for field reconnaissance, geological survey and territorial marking.
A thumbprint serves as watermark for the catalog and reminder of the humanity of the subject of EXTRACTION—the topographic signature of a landowner for a mining concession in Papua New Guinea.
A 10,000-word essay turns into a 17-point manifesto about 800 years of empire building, from the law of the land in the Magna Carta (1215-1217) to the 150 years of colonial Confederation in 2017...
...consulting with graphic designer and communications expert Kelsey Blackwell, the EXTRACTION Team pours over 800 images of archives in early 2016.
...contrasting the oxblood jacket of the last printed yearbook issued by the Bureau of Statistics for the centennial, national, and colonial commemoration of Confederation in 1967.
...the new 150-page catalog accompanying the Canadian Exhibition is sold out twice, a manifesto shared with nearly 10,000 visitors during the Biennale, preparing for the sesquicentennial...
...where land is the overriding x-factor, undermining empires and ideologies of extraction...
...responding and overwriting the Curator's Call by Alejandro Aravena for the 2016 Architecture Biennale, as the EXTRACTION Team reports from the ground, on the edge of an emerging empire...
...soon to be released in 2017 as #EXTRACTIONEMPIRE, the full-feature book from MIT PRESS, with a worldwide tour and film.
In a reverse chronology, a preliminary layout of extracted images, facts, and quotes from the past 800 years dating back to 1215 and beyond.
In production with creators/producers/researchers Jacob Moginot, Zannah Matson, Chris Alton, Pedro Aparicio and Boram Lee.
With a soundtrack totally inspired by, resampled from A Tribe Called Red's piercing track "Burn Your Village Down to the Ground" released on 4th Thursday of November 2013 to dispel Thanksgiving myth.
...one of the most amazing likes and accolades, from one of the greatest bands in the world!!!
Seen through the oculus of the golden survey stake at the Biennale, viewers are confronted with the consumptive scales and extractive realities of life in colonial métropoles worldwide.
Left: Colin Ripley, Sam Gillis, Kathy Velikov, Kevin & Genevieve Hume, Steven Beites, Zannah Matson, Hamed Bukhamseen, Geoff Thün, Alessandra Lai, Chris Alton, Irene Chin, Eriel Deranger, and more.
Commissioner: Catherine Crowston – Art Gallery of Alberta
Curator: Pierre Bélanger – OPSYS
Core Team - Organization & Collaboration: OPSYS – Zannah Matson / Chris Alton, Ecological Design Lab – Nina-Marie Lister, RVTR – Geoff Thün / Kathy Velikov / Colin Ripley, Hume Atelier – Kevin Hume / Genevieve Ennis Hume, M+B Studio, Blackwell Studio, Beites & Co. – Steven Beites / Filip Tisler, Alessandra Lai, Eriel Deranger – ACFN, Massimo Benedetti, Dr. Michele Caria, Jacob Moginot, Pedro Aparicio, Boram Lee, Irene Chin, Sam Gillis, Lindsay Fischer, Michael Awad, Olga Semenovych, Jane Zhang, Tiffany Dang, Carlo Urmy, Mark Jongman-Sereno, Kate Yoon, Hernan Bianchi Benguria, Emanuela Innelli, Aya Abdallah, Natalia Woldarsky Meneses, Hamed Bukhamseen, Chella Jade Strong
Partnerships: Rich Bruggeman
Additional Contributors: Alessandra Ponte, Suzanne Zeller, Alain Deneault, Alex Golub, Thomas King, Gord Hill, John van Nostrand, Peter Munk, Réal V. Benoit, Doug Morrison, Eriel Deranger, Chief Allan Adam, David Chancellor, Ossie Michelin, Max Haiven, Mel Watkins, Doug Morrison
Support: Canada Council for the Arts, RBC Foundation, Harvard Graduate School of Design, Landscape Architecture Canada Foundation, Ontario Association of Architects, Ryerson University, University of Michigan Taubman College of Architecture, The Walrus Foundation, Border Crossings, IGEA SpA, Gloria Irene Taylor, Barrick Gold, Verona Libri, The Nothern Miner, Canadian Architect, Azure, Graham Foundation, MIT Press, Air Canada Cargo
Acknowledgments: A Tribe Called Red (Ian 'DJ NDN' Campeau, Tim '2oolman' Hill, Bear Witness), Pierre & Jannelle Lassonde, Peter McGovern, Jasmina Zurovac, Mohsen Mostafavi, Phyllis Lambert, Edward Burtynsky, Jennifer Baichwal, Nick de Pencier, Kelvin Dushnisky, Alanna Heath, Simon Brault, Sylvie Gilbert, Brigitte Desrochers, Sacha Hastings, Geneviève Vallerand, Brigitte Shim & Howard Sutcliffe, Bruce Kuwabara, Robert Enright, David D'Arcy, Toon Dressen, Robert Wright, Alexander Reford, Ted Kesik, Chris Petersen, Peter Buchanan, Lise Anne Couture, Léa-Catherine Szacka, Karen Colby-Stothart, Anne Eschapasse, Cecelia Paine, Doris Chee, Jim Carter, Shelley Ambrose, D'Arcy Levesque, Patrick Schein, Charlie Fischer, Joanne Cuthbertson, Sarah McCallum, Joan Murray, Chelsea Spencer, Elise Hunchuck, Mano & Baldeep Duggal, Micol Soleri, Manuela Lucadazio, ...and a special shout out to all our visitors, followers, and fans on twitter and instagram.