Territorial Commons: Mapping Narratives in the Shifting Extractive Landscapes of the Antipodes

The relentless pursuit of economic growth has historically propelled an ever-expanding reliance on natural resources, shaping and altering cultures while transforming landscapes. This pursuit of power has led to deforestation, drilling, mining, and extensive terraforming of the planet. As a consequence, biodiversity zones have been devastated, communities displaced, and profound racial, social, and economic disparities have emerged issues inherently intertwined with environmental changes. This condition presents an opportunity to perceive and redefine natural resources and their infrastructure as an interconnected process that does not segregate substance from significance, or nature from culture.

The seminar is centred on mapping as an investigative act that unveils the conflicts and productive rights of more than human entities and matters associated with the extractive landscapes of the Antipodes. Access to a range of Australia’s National archives will enable the creation of an extensive composite map supported by archival papers and artifacts. The objective is to analyse the enduring material flows and metabolic transformations in this region over time, exploiting the evolving perceptions and value attributed to land and its non-human counterparts through periods of colonisation and capital growth.

The continual and extensive exploitation of land in the Antipodes as a resource subjecting it to the will of commodification, consistently disrupts the intricate natural processes, leading to significant environmental consequences. Historically, this has exacerbated racial, social, and economic disparities, inherently interconnected with the land. These extractive landscapes ultimately benefit a select group of individuals who wield power over others and the non-human inhabitants, confining them within structured systems of exploitation driven by particular economic imperatives.

The course framework introduces and explores new value systems for the environment and alternative definitions for productivity, ground, and land. This project-based seminar is structured around three phases; Phase One: From Above, Phase Two: From Within, and Phase Three: From Below.

The teaching and learning schedule includes a series of guest lectures aligned to the different phases of the seminar.  A range of investigative mapping tools and approaches will be explored in order to represent and communicate a visual account of these extractive landscapes in the Antipodes (primarily Australia & New Zealand) through compelling ‘composite maps’ of palimpsest histories.

The work produced in the seminar will be included in an exhibition on extractive landscapes at the National Museum in Australia and at Harvard Natural History Museum.