Iȟpéya, Piyéȟpičašni

"Midnight Mine Goblet" glazed ceramic

Earth on Display/ Experiments in Pedagogy - MIT School of Architecture and Planning
November 4, 2018 at the Harvard Museum of Natural History

Dakota philosophy holds that humans are not separate from or greater than the earth and its processes. With this in mind, how can we approach drastically changed landscapes resulting from widespread human-caused environmental degradation?

Once the sought-after parts of the earth’s body are taken and processed into the essential elements that make modern living possible[1], what happens to the landscapes left behind? Using earth itself, in the form of clay, vessel-like representations explore these contours. 

vessel of Bingham Canyon mine on topographic map with copper-in-shale specimen
Using topographical maps, clay vessels molded in the form of mined earth, and specimens from the mineralogical collection of the Harvard Museum of Natural History, four sites of mining in the US are presented, opening a discussion around the ethics and implications of exploitative mining. 

USGS topographic maps of: Bingham Canyon mine in Salt Lake City, Utah,
Midnite mine on the Spokane reservation in Washington, Fort Knox
in Fairbanks, Alaska, and Twilight Mountain Top Removal Mine in
Lindytown, West Virginia.
Bingham Canyon mine in Utah, operated by Rio Tinto Kennecott is the largest open pit mine in the world and extracts copper, gold, silver, and molybdenum. Uranium from Midnite mine on the Spokane Indian Reservation in Washington, helped to fuel the Cold War and is now a Superfund site. Fort Knox gold mine is located near Fairbanks, Alaska, operated by Kinross Gold, uses cyanide leaching to extract gold from the rock, and has a huge energy and water use footprint. Twilight MTR (Mountain Top Removal) mine, operated by Massey Energy/ Alpha Natural Resources is located in the Blue Hills in Lindytown, West Virginia. Mountain Top Mining is a highly destructive method that removes “overburden”: rock, mountainsides, flora and fauna, in order to get to the coal beneath it.

Viewing the installation at the Harvard Natural History Museum
Climate Change Gallery
Around this table installation, viewers shared the commonality of interrelationships between all forms of existence. Iȟpéyá, means to discard/ throw away, and is used here to describe the increasing number of places on earth that are spent, trashed, contaminated, detonated, destroyed.

Mountain top removal mine vessel
Píyéhpíčášní means broken beyond repair/ unfixable, and in this context implicates Western philosophies of separation from nature and the hierarchy of man which, compounded over hundreds of years of dominance, have caused widespread ecological collapse and climate change.

Coal variety Jet, polished in part
Vernal, Utah

Native gold in Cambrian dolomite
Hidden Fortune Mine, Black Hills, South Dakota

Molybedenite with barite crystals
Jardinera no. 1 mine
Inca de Oro, Atacama, Chile

 We don’t have to look far to see the landscapes altered by modern living. What’s harder to see is the imperative of remembering our deep relationship to the land we live on/ land we are.

[1] Rio Tinto http://www.kennecott.com/about-us “At Rio Tinto Kennecott, we mine essential elements that make modern living possible. Our products are used in cell phones, computers, CAT scans and hybrid electric cars. Nearly everything used today relies on materials we produce.”


Existing in the void/ unwell

Sculpture by Sam Genia
"Existing in the void/ unwell" appears on Unheard Records compilation 003, "Infinite In-Betweens."

Out now! Get the album on bandcamp.