LA+ Islands Competition Entry, 2017

Salon des Refusés Selection; featured in the print edition of LA+ Imagination

The European Age of Discovery, a 300-year period commencing in the 15th century, saw explorers repeatedly mistake one island for another; unknown geographies for known ones. John Cabot hailed the discovery of a western route to Asia when he landed on the shores of Newfoundland. Christopher Columbus mistook Hispaniola for a Pacific archipelago. The revelation that these islands were not what the explorers believed they were expanded the size of the known world. Viewed metaphorically, these islands occupy the gulf between our perception of the world and the world as it is. 

Modern islands defined as such are not physical land; the earth’s surface is fully mapped. Our collective blind spot lies in the fourth dimension: humanity’s chronic inability to see beyond human time-scales. This failure of perception has led to the greatest crises of the human-led epoch via the overconsumption of finite mineralogical resources. 

Technofossils are totems for modern persons and future civilizations to visualize the earth’s petrochemical epoch. They preserve those resources that would be consumed and make visible chthonic disturbances that are without precedent in Earth’s history. They are a form of geologic preservation: concretizing the subterranean landscapes of now. Tethered to their cavities of origin, each core is cast into orbit, free of Earth’s weathering atmosphere. The resultant voids function dually as platforms for looking upward at the lofted core and downward into the Earth’s primordial interior.

Technofossils are extracted from three sites that mark the critical phases of our petrochemical epoch: extraction, consumption, and transformation. One, from Kellingley Colliery, cores the last deep coal mine in England. A second, at the Choctaw Salt Dome in Plaquemine, Louisiana, unearths a cavernous salt mine used for natural gas storage and, one day, sequestration. A core from Bayan Obo Rare Earth Mine in Inner Mongolia embodies transformation and its associated perils. Renewable energy technologies such as wind turbines, electric vehicles, and other instruments rely on lanthanides to perform.