Rare Earth (2020)
HD Video with Sound
Rare Earth is a film, photography, sculpture and text installation documenting a visit to the Baotou rare-earth mineral field and tailings dam in Inner Mongolia, China, where the earth is poisoned beyond comprehension; a meditation on technological progress, environmental destruction and our ultimate destiny as a species.
A huge percentage of the world's rare earth minerals, essential for the manufacture of smart phones and various communications technology, come from the mineral fields of Inner Mongolia, where China's loose environmental protection restrictions permit the violent extractive processes required to obtain the minerals. Baotou Steel is a vast industrial hellscape and is centred around the Weikuang tailings dam - a horizon of toxic fluid produced as a waste product from extraction. The dam is a vision into a nightmarish future, where technology and human expansion has poisoned the earth and skies. Using Hong Kong-based philosopher Yuk Hui’s notion of 'cosmotechnics' as a departure, the work documents the landscape of Inner Mongolia to explore the ethics of rampant human growth, examining how traditional knowledge and sustainability, evidenced in Hui’s appraisal of traditional Chinese Taoist thought, compares to the ethos of modernity and unmitigated technological expansion. Looking out at the expanse of the dam, we see a human cosmological praxis out of touch from its centre, with a visceral dissonance in contemplating our reliance on smartphone technology. Filmed on location in Baotou, this work was made in mentorship with Beijing-based artist Shen Shaomin and with assistance from 4A Contemporary in Sydney.