Into the deep.
Mines of the Future

26.05.2023 – 05.11.2023

The mining of raw materials is becoming an increasing ecological, economic, political and social problem with global impacts. Extensive mining practices and the exploitation of ecological and social systems are causing one of the greatest environmental burdens of our time. Their consequences are often dramatically visible, yet the fight for resources continues, in new locations that sometimes seem utopian. The interdisciplinary exhibition Into the deep. Mines of the Future at the Zeppelin Museum looks critically at the metal aluminium, the so called “metal of flight”, a material tightly connected to the history of the city of Friedrichshafen, as well as the complex connections of Deep Sea and Deep Space Mining. Alongside the consequences of environmental destruction and colonialism, both results of constantly increasing extraction practices, the fully climate-neutral exhibition explores resistance and activism against the exploitation of people and the environment.

Using objects from the museum collection, the Zeppelin Museum traces the establishment of aluminium as the main material for airship construction and its impact on material science. Discovered 1825, this light metal became the most important basis for the construction of metal frameworks in airship technology. The growing demand and the consequent supply shortages soon showed the dependence of the German aluminium industry on imports, resulting in state controls, material collections, recycling and the search for substitutes. The global mining of the rock bauxite – and the very energy-consuming extraction of aluminium from it - causes not only environmental damage but also the waste product red mud, prompting criticism of the aluminium industry until today.

Another focus of the exhibition is Deep Sea Mining, the extraction of raw materials in the deep sea with its unforeseeable consequences for the ecosystem. In her video installation Nautilus New Era, Kristina Õllek draws on the story 20 000 Leagues Under the Sea and juxtaposes it with the current, highly controversial practice of Deep Sea Mining in the age of climate emergency. Nautilus is not only the name of the fictional submarine in Jules Verne’s story, but also of Nautilus Minerals Inc., a company that planned to mine on the seabed off Papua New Guinea. In her installation, Kristina Õllek underlines how laboriously the seabed is ploughed for mining and the scale of this massive intervention in the fragile ecosystem. She also addresses the conflicting interests of scientific exploration, commercial mining and environmental protection. Armin Linke is also concerned with the future of the oceans and the conflicting interests of their scientific exploration, commercial exploitation, and protection. The exhibition will feature the extensive installation Prospecting Ocean, which deals, among other things, with the euphoria for deep-sea mining beginning in the 1960s and 1970s.

Researchers constantly look for new possibilities of extraction as resources on Earth are scarce and limited. One such example is Deep Space Mining. Mining the Skies by Bethany Rigby is an installation of rock and mineral samples that critically examines the research on extraterrestrial mining, particularly asteroid mining. In the work, Rigby reflects on potential sites, resources, the use of bacteria to mine rare earths and existing laws governing mining activities in space. The collective Bureau d 'études addresses the issue of asteroid mining on their large-scale wall map Astropolitique. It visualizes the social and environmental catastrophes associated with the extraction of rare resources through the increased production of computers, laptops, and tablets, and brings to the surface hidden realities of the capitalist system and colonial logic.

The exhibition also highlights the precarious working conditions of people involved in extraction, as well as the resistance against human rights violations and environmental destruction. Forensic scientist, filmmaker and researcher Ignacio Acosta has been working on the central sites of mining for many years: from copper mining in the Atacama Desert in Chile to the protests against the construction of an iron ore mine in northern Sweden where drones were used for counter-surveillance. In a comprehensive space-specific installation, he brings together his various field studies, which he understands as “deep drillings”. A particular focus of his research is digital activism in the fight for environmental justice to address the use of digital technologies in a post-pandemic scenario.

Participating artists:
Ignacio Acosta, Bureau d ’études, Armin Linke, Kristina Õllek and Bethany Rigby.

The exhibition is funded by the Fonds Zero of the Kulturstiftung des Bundes and aims to be fully climate-neutral. Visitors can experience the lived reality of reused materials in the exhibition architecture made completely from recycled materials, that also advocates for a stronger integration of local resources into a material cycle. The balance between sustainable exhibition practices, the protection of cultural assets and a high-quality presentation will be a central task of the exhibition project, which is embedded in the nationwide, interdisciplinary cooperation project Mining. Extracting the Future. In the project initiated by the Zeppelin Museum Friedrichshafen, eleven partners from the fields of culture and science take a nuanced and critical look at the extraction of raw materials. This provides the possibility to address traditional, current and future forms of extractivism, ranging from mining and resource recycling to phytomining, deep sea and deep space mining.

These eight cultural institutions and three universities will collectively realise the exhibition project:

All projects and events will be published on a innovative, digital platform, developed in cooperation with the Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Engineering IAO and the agenturfuerkrankemedien Berlin.

Funded by the Zero programme of the Kulturstiftung des Bundes (German Federal Cultural Foundation). Funded by the Beauftragte der Bundesregierung für Kultur und Medien (Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media).

Follow us