My artwork over the past couple of years has focussed on lignite mining of brown coal at Garzweiler
in the Dusseldorf/Cologne region of Germany. I first learned about this through research of Natalie Czech’s photography in the area. In 1998 Czech discovered empty villages due to be relocated along with the displacement of about 30,000 people living there in order to access the brown coal beneath their houses and land. The German utility company RWE (the equivalent of our ESB) handles all the mining as well as renewable energies - which is what Germany is probably best known for.
Last September I decided to pay a visit to the site to see the large scale industrial excavating machinery and engage with people from the area. This was a huge awakening where I gathered from other visitors to the site how devastating the mining was viewed on human and environmental levels. Questions were also raised of the political and economic necessities, especially moving 20 kilometres of the A44 motorway because it was in the way and the environmental impact of how much emissions were being expelled into the atmosphere from the 50 or so power stations surrounding the mines.
When we extend our gaze onto the wider world to the melting of the Arctic icecaps and our undermining of fossil fuels with fracking, oil extraction and mining for ore, then we have to critically examine the timeframe of Earth’s survival, along with our own on this planet. So many of us know that this is happening it’s getting harder to simply enjoy life and carry on when we already overtax the earth whatever we do.
Ultimately we are all implicated as participants in the web of our ecological and human existence and it is up to us to find some common space to reinvent an ecological intelligence about our complex world. If we demand this as cognitive and caring human beings then institutions will follow.