Extraction Empire is a program of short films curated by artist Charles Stankievech in response to the current exhibitions. The landscape has always played a foundational role within the imaginary of the Canadian nation and its perception internationally. The modern nation-state of Canada as a colonial outpost was premised on resource extraction from Indigenous lands as settlers came to the Americas and resources were extracted back to the centre of Empire. In the 21st century expropriated lands still remain a zone of conflict with the Crown, but the flow of power is more complex as Canada is not a only a contested territory of resources, but also the corporate headquarters now participating in the colonial extraction of resources in other nations: uranium in Mongolia and Kazakhstan, gold in Greece, rare earths in Greenland and so on. The film program Extraction Empire looks at the dual politics of resource extraction in the face of Indigenous sovereignty. Peter Mettler’s sublimely shot Petropolis (2009) provides to date the most traumatizing depiction of the scale of the Alberta Tar Sands. Amanda S. Lickers’ film Kahsatstenhsera (2013) provides a document of solidarity, weaving together Indigenous resistance against the Tar Sands, not only of the local Indigenous community but communities that are affected all across Turtle Island (aka Canada), including Toronto. The oil might come out of specific place but its consequences overflow. The final video in the program from Urusla Biemann and Paulo Tavares shifts to a sympathetic struggle in the Ecuadorian Amazon. Forest Law (2014) recounts the Indigenous struggle as played out in the legal system including a successful ruling respecting the rights of the forest and traditional territory.
Charles Stankievech is an artist whose research has explored the notion of “fieldwork” in the embedded landscape, the military industrial complex, and the history of technology. He was recently commissioned to make a work about colonial resource extraction for the exhibition Rare Earth. He is a professor in the faculty of architecture at the University of Toronto.
Amanda S. Lickers, Kahsatstenhsera: Indigenous Resistance to Tar Sands Pipelines (2013, 10mins)
Peter Mettler, Petropolis: Aerial Perspectives on the Alberta Tar Sands (2009, 43mins)
Ursula Biemann & Paulo Tavares, Forest Law, (2014, 30mins)