EXTRACTION to represent Canada at the 2016 Venice Architecture Biennale



A cutting-edge, multimedia exploration of our extractive industries and mineral lives is set to represent Canada at the 15th International Architecture Exhibition of the Venice Biennale. Provocatively called EXTRACTION, the project will feature an installation, film and book addressing the ecologies and territories of resource extraction.

The project explores the architectures, histories and economies of Canada’s culture of resource extraction, to profile the rise of a “global resource empire” where, in the words of political economist Harold Innis, “Canada has emerged as a political entity not in spite of geography, but because of it.” Through the lens of the territorial infrastructures and political ecologies of resource urbanism, EXTRACTION engages contemporary and historic media across a range of cultural, spatial and industrial views. It brings together perspectives from business, history, art and activism to rethink Canada’s global position as home to 75% of our planet’s prospecting and mining companies.

 The team is led by landscape urbanist Pierre Bélanger and includes:

  • OPSYS, a design and media organization managed by Christopher Alton and Zannah Matson, in collaboration with:
  • Geoffrey Thün, Kathy Velikov and Colin Ripley of the architectural firm RVTR,
  • Nina-Marie Lister with Ryerson University’s Ecological Design Lab, and
  • Kelsey Blackwell of Studio Blackwell, in the production of a multimedia exhibition project that features contributions from prominent Canadians including Michael Awad, Jennifer Baichwal, Edward Burtynsky, Nick de Pencier, Eriel Deranger, Max Haiven, Thomas King, Alessandra Ponte, John Van Nostrand, Mel Watkins and Suzanne Zeller to name a few.

“Canada has become a global resource culture—our operations, technologies, and services are nearly in every country on the surface of the earth, yet almost nobody knows the full extent of it,” says Pierre Bélanger. “Imagine what natural resources are required to support contemporary urban life. Every time a building goes up, or a road gets laid, there’s a hole that gets dug into the ground across different territories. If resource extraction defines Canada at home and abroad, then it’s part of our contemporary culture and collective history. Every single Canadian is touched and implicated by the economies and infrastructures of extraction.”

 As the Official Commissioner for EXTRACTION, Catherine Crowston and the Art Gallery of Alberta (AGA) will support the launch of the project in Venice on May 27, 2016. The project will tour in 2017 during the 150th commemoration of Canada’s Confederation.