Margarida Mendes is a writer, curator, and educator. In 2009 she founded the project space The Barber Shop in Lisbon, where she hosts a programme of seminars and residencies dedicated to artistic and philosophical research. Exploring the overlap between cybernetics, philosophy, sciences, and experimental film, her personal research investigates the dynamic transformations of materialism and their impact on societal structures and cultural production. She is interested in exploring alternative modes of education and political resilience through her collaborative practice, programming and activism. Margarida Mendes has curated projects in various institutions, among them Flat Time House, London; KIM? Contemporary Art Centre, Liga; Berardo Museum, Lisbon; Spike Island Centre of Contemporary Art & Design, Bristol; 98 Weeks, Beirut; and Serralves Museum, Porto.

Margarida holds an MA in Aural and Visual Culture from Goldsmiths College of London, and in 2013 she was part of the Synapse Curatorial Research Group included in the Anthropocene Project at Haus der Kulturen der Welt in Berlin, with writing in the volume Textures of the Anthropocene: Grain Vapor Ray, published by MIT Press (2004). From 2017 on she will be based in Madrid where she will co-run Escuelita, an informal school at Centro de Arte Dos de Mayo.

In the early 20th century, the South American rubber industry entered a phase of decline as a result of the successful implantation in Southeast Asia of a batch of hevea brasiliensis (rubber plant) seeds, brought to the region from London’s Kew Gardens in 1877. Expanding the lines of inquiry of a previous project—The Skin Labour (2016)—that examined rubber plantations in the Ecuadorian Amazon, Adrián Balseca follows the “trajectory of latex” in the Global South by investigating power relations, labour processes, and patterns of bodily movements devised for rubber harvesting in Singapore and Malaysia at a crucial moment of transition from manual to mechanical techniques. In particular, furthering his investigation of social-environmental issues and the “extractivist” dynamics that underscore capitalistic development, the artist will research designs and graphic patterns of incision employed for tapping rubber trees and the manifold implications entailed by the relocation of labour practices in different political, cultural, and environmental contexts.

By inhabitants in collaboration with Margarida Mendes

Deep sea mining is a new frontier of resource extraction located on the ocean seabed. It is set to begin in the next few years, as the technology is currently under development. Mining companies are, at present, leasing areas for exploitation in national and international waters in order to assess the potential to extract minerals and metals such as manganese, cobalt, gold, copper, iron, and other rare earth elements. The main geological sites targeted are areas rich in polymetallic nodules, seamounts, and hydrothermal vents; areas typically found where tectonic plates meet. The areas to be mined could cover parts of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge and the Clarion Clipperton Zone in the Pacific Ocean in international waters, and national waters off the islands of Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Tonga, New Zealand, Japan, and the Portuguese archipelago of the Azores. Assessment of the impact on deep sea ecosystems is underway, though their cumulative effects remain difficult to comprehend given the unprecedented variety and expanse of the mining sites targeted. At the same time, local and indigenous communities living in these regions are not being adequately consulted.

The prospects of this form of mining re-actualise a colonial, frontier mentality and are redefining extractivist economies for the twenty-first century. What is Deep Sea Mining? addresses both knowledge of the deep sea and ocean governance, but also efforts to defend a sustained ocean literacy beyond the United Nations’ “blue economy” at a time when the deep ocean, its species, and its resources remain largely unmapped and understudied.

Episode 1, Tools for Ocean Literacy, is historical and geographical introduction to deep sea mining, playing with Charles and Ray Eames’ 1977 film Powers of Ten.

Episode 2, Deep Frontiers, tells a story about knowledge of the seabed and its alien life, written by anthropologist Stefan Helmreich.

Episode 3, The Azore Case, focuses on the Portuguese Azores nine island archipelago, following European Union plans to mine in the region, based on a series of interviews with marine biologists and politicians conducted in the islands.

Episode 4, A Glossary on Mining, offers a brief glossary of terms that can be used to better tackle the issue of mining reserves and monopolies on land, which in turn may lead to the potential threat of deep sea mining.

Episode 5, The Papua New Guinea Case, addresses the plans to mine off the coast of Papua New Guinea as well as the long activist struggle by local communities across the Pacific against deep sea mining. Episode 5 will be premiered at NTU CCA Singapore, simultaneously in the Lab space and online on social media and the websites of NTU CCA Singapore’s website, the funding and partner institution TBA21 – Academy’s website, and inhabitants-tv.