Since the establishment of the first human settlements in the late 19th century, the ecosystem of Christmas Island—a small volcanic outcrop in the Indian Ocean which was transferred from Singapore to Australia in 1958—underwent dramatic changes. Along with human settlers, several non-indigenous species alighted on the island disrupting the endemic biodiversity that had thrived undisturbed thanks to geographical remoteness and almost nil human interference. The accidental introduction of invasive species severely impacted a fragile ecosystem, imperilling the island’s wildlife and causing the extinction of a number of native species. As a result, extreme biocontrol strategies are currently being undertaken in an attempt to restore the island’s biodiversity.
In the past two years, The Institute of Critical Zoologists has been researching the escalating chain of events brought about by the human presence on Christmas Island gathering a varied collection of research materials that merge factual and fictional elements. By surveying the impact of human beings on an endemic habitat, Final Report of the Christmas Island Expert Working Group maps out lines of invasion and retreat, it investigates dynamics of connectedness and isolation triggering reflections on states of vulnerability and conditions of survival in the age of globalisation.
Curated by Anna Lovecchio, Curator, Residencies
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.
Ato Malinda (b. 1981, Kenya) lives and works in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.
She has a Masters of Fine Arts (MFA) from Transart Institute, New York. Her diverse practice consists of performance, drawing, painting, installation, video, and ceramic object-making, through which she investigates the hybrid nature of African identity, contesting notions of authenticity and issues of colonialism, trade, race, gender and sexuality.
Malinda was recently the winner of the first Annual African Art Award from the Smithsonian Institution (2016) and was one of the awardees of the Smithsonian Artist Research Fellowship (2015). She has exhibited extensively participating in exhibitions at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Copenhagen, Denmark (2015) and the Museum für Moderne Kunst Frankfurt am Main, Germany (2014) among others.
Jonathas de Andrade is one of the most promising Brazilian artists of his generation. Over the last decade, he has developed works in photography, video, and installation that stem from observations of everyday life in Brazil and what he regards as its “urgencies and discomforts.” He considers how the Brazilian national identity and labour conditions have been constructed in the midst of colonialism and slavery, and reinterprets the methodologies of education and social sciences to question underlying assumptions. De Andrade studied communications at Universidade Federal de Pernambuco, Brazil, and has had solo exhibitions worldwide.
Envisioned in 1956 by Indonesian artist Iljas Hussein*, along waves of gravity –a solidar y of holes was to be a monument to the short-lived Principal Liaison Centre (PLC) established in Singapore in 1926. Pivotal in the international surge of anti-colonial struggles, the PLC was a point of liaison between the 3rd International and the region and it was meant to serve as an organ for the amplification of the voices of the marginalised and the oppressed.
At the Asian-African Conference held in Bandung in 1955, Hussein was entrusted with the task of imagining a monument that encapsulated the spirit of the PLC. One year later, he presented the idea for along waves of gravity –a solidar y of holes: a triangulation of holes strategically placed across the island that would gather and continuously echo the voices uttered into them. Inspired by theories of general relativity and topological properties of continuous deformation, Hussein’s design articulates, spatially as well as acoustically, an anti-monumentalist stance. Rather than asserting an univocal shape, the monument retreats into the ground as a series of interconnected and shapeshifting vessels which reverberate and transform sound waves throughout time. Hussein kept experimenting with these ideas until his death in 1989 but, due to its scale and technical complexity, his visionary project remained unbuilt. The surviving renderings and audio experiments of the unrealised monument are now displayed in The Vitrine.
* Iljas Hussein is a fictional artist conceived by Kin Chui. The name is one of the many aliases used by Tan Malaka (1897 –1949), an influential revolutionary thinker and fighter in the political struggles for Indonesia’s independence. Specifically, this alias was used to pen Malaka’s magnum opus Madilog (1943), the Indonesian acronym for Materialisme Dialektika Logika (Materialism Dialectics Logics).