SYNOPSIS Located outside in the Giardini for the first time in the history of the Venice Architecture Biennale in Italy, this exhibition project presents an interactive intervention—built into the ground—to reveal Canada’s global presence as pre-eminent extractive nation to the world. Visitors are invited to kneel down and peer into the ground to witness the realities of Canada’s resource mining empire around the world.
THE EXHIBITION At a scale of 1:1 billion, the geological map of the world that underlies the exhibition reveals planetary scales of operation for the largest resource extraction nation on the planet whose foreign policy is borne from legacies as colony, as confederation, as country, and now, as global resource empire. Canada is home to over 75% of the planet’s prospecting and mining companies thanks to the Toronto Stock Exchange. Nearly half of the 20,000 mining projects in the world shape the global image of Canada’s vast underground states of mineral wealth that edify the power of the Crown shining on the surface of the State.
Facing the pavilions of former empires of the United Kingdom and France, visitors are invited to kneel down to peer into the ground; a film reveals the realities of Canada’s resource mining empire around the world. Eight hundred years of empire building unfold below grade with eight hundred images, from eight hundred contributors, in eight hundred seconds. This unique audiovisual experience below the ground reveals the scales of resource extraction while bringing its historical, political, ecological, and territorial dimensions to the surface. The exhibition acts as a lens on the paper world of lands, leases, and laws, as well as the material world of mines, minerals, and markets, and the grounded world of territorial lands, languages, lives.
As a contemporary and historical reference, the horizontal format of the exhibition references the divine, legal power of the Crown to separate surface rights from mineral rights. This supreme authority covers over 95% of Canada’s territory making the Head of State—Queen Elizabeth II—the biggest landlord in the world. As the last remaining royal monarchy in the Americas, Canada is the brainchild of Queen Victoria, the most powerful woman in the history of the world, who expanded the British Empire to an unprecedented size in late 19th century.
If extraction has defined Canada for the past 800 years since the British Magna Carta—then exchange will revolutionize its future. Exposing the tensions, frictions, and resistances between map and territory, this counter-monument forged in pure gold is then gifted to the State Sovereign in a declarative gesture of retrocession and independence, at the close of the 15th International Architecture Exhibition.
THE OUTCOME By miniaturizing this extensive history in a personalexperience, this inverted spatial intervention magnifies territorial realities at a scale of 1:1 to elicit a deeper discourse on the complex ecologies and vast geopolitics of resource extraction in territories that cover more than 80% of the planet’s surface and where more than 1 billion indigenous people live. Disentangling and reconfiguring synergies between life, law, and land, a manifesto of resource urbanism reimagines the surface of the state towards the 22nd century.
Over 10,000 visitors were received at the Canadian Exhibition over the course of the Biennale season, from May 28 to November 28, 2017, with 10,000 copies of the exhibition catalog handed out.