Seabed Mining & Counter-Strategies of the artistic eye

re:publica 2017

Short thesis: 

Could the future of the planet depend upon our response to the imminent mining operations about to be unleashed in the depths of the oceans, and how can an art organisation engage on a structural level with a complex issue like this, avoiding to be purely figurative or just a communications tool.


This talk embarks from the hypothesis that deep sea mining is an anthropogenic intervention that will profoundly change the planet’s design, whilst perpetuating the exploitative culture of a hyper canibalistic extraction industry.

It will deeply affect our futures, which are closely entangled with the oceans. Seabed mining targets polymetallic nodules that are used in the production of batteries, alloys and plastic, and may well be the next gold rush. Its effects will most likely be long-term and invasive, impacting ecosystems from the microbial level to the structural constitution of the seabed in a way that we are not remotely able to anticipate.

Commercial exploitation of the seafloor is currently being evaluated from various positions, from multinational companies active in Papua New Guinea, to a pilot test program in the Azores funded by the European Commission. Due to the lack of knowledge and data from the deep seabed, mining companies deploy artificial neural networks for predictive mapping of the resources at 3-5000 meters depth. However, potential risks arising from pollution to sediment plumes to toxicity are only marginally assessed.

Markus Reymann is the director of TBA21-Academy, an itinerant site of cultural production and interdisciplinary research. Conceived as a moving platform on the oceans, it brings together thinkers from various fields concerned with today’s most urgent ecological, social, and economic issues. The organisation occupies the space between the spheres of contemporary arts, science, conservation and policy. In June of 2016 TBA21–Academy was granted the Observer Status at the International Seabed Authority, becoming the first art organization ever to be given this status. This allows TBA21–Academy to contribute to the international climate change agenda on a policy making level.

Stage 4
Wednesday, May 10, 2017 - 13:45 to 14:15