Exploring Geopolitics through Collaboration and Conversation

World of Matter, a recently installed Katherine E. Nash Gallery exhibition, considers material extraction through a multidisciplinary lens.

One of the first people to experience the World of Matter exhibit views a video inside the Katherine E. Nash Gallery on Sept. 14.

Jack Rodgers

One of the first people to experience the World of Matter exhibit views a video inside the Katherine E. Nash Gallery on Sept. 14.

Kate Drakulic

It can be quite easy to overlook ecological crises amid the seemingly more immediate crises of everyday life; but World of Matter, an international collective that investigates global material extraction, aims to bring ecology to the forefront. 

“World of Matter: Mobilizing Materialities” is a multi-disciplinary exhibition which explores how natural resources have been exploited and circulated, and the devastating impacts these practices cause for local and global geopolitics. It opened Sept. 14 at the Katherine E. Nash Gallery.

Ursula Biemann, a writer, video-essayist and World of Matter contributor, was present from the very beginning when the project first launched in 2013.

“In the beginning, we called it ‘Supply Lines,’ because we were still thinking in this economic way, in globalization type discourses,” Biemann said. “Then we realized with all these new ideas and philosophies popping up about materialism and so on, we thought maybe we have to focus on the materials themselves and the politics of how they are extracted, what kind of lands they occupy, what problems they run into, indigenous nations and so forth.”

The Nash Gallery now hosts the fourth full series of World of Matter. The works in the exhibition change with each new installation as new artists join and research is developed.

To connect the overall theme of the exhibition to the community, World of Matter also incorporates local or regional resource issues into the collection – it currently explores the industry, transportation and material extraction of the Great Lakes.

 Howard Oransky, Director of the Nash Gallery, began his job as in 2011. 

 “This project was attractive to me because I believe that art offers us different ways to understand the world and our place in the world as we choose to define it,” Oransky said.

Oransky was approached about World of Matter nearly two and a half years ago by his colleague, Ozayr Saloojee. 

“I thought it sounded really great and really appropriate for what I want to do in this gallery,” Oransky said. “I agreed immediately.”

Saloojee was previously an associate professor of architecture at the University of Minnesota.

 “We wanted to kind of engage with complex and challenging questions about landscape, the social and cultural implications of landscape and moving materials and what that means,” Saloojee said. “And so, we invited this incredible series of artists to participate.”

In addition to the exhibition, a day-long symposium and field trip to the Minnesota’s Iron Range near Duluth took place this past weekend to connect local aspects to the global research and concepts behind World of Matter initiatives and artists’ works.

Karen Lutsky, assistant professor of landscape architecture at the University of Minnesota, played a huge role in the organization of these events to extend the conversation and provide viable platforms for discussion.

“That’s a big part of this project,” she said. “To make it open and accessible to the public and to the University itself.” 

“World of Matter: Mobilizing Materials” is full of dense and rich information, and its components are multidisciplinary and collaborative.

The exhibit and its correlating events are presented with help from the University’s Department of Landscape Architecture, School of Architecture, the Imagine Fund, numerous donors and, of course, World of Matter.

Emily E. Scott, Ozayr Saloojee, Howard Oransky and Karen Lutsky were four core organizers involved in bringing the project to the Nash Gallery and are extremely passionate about the collective work and concepts.

On opening night, Scott addressed the diverse group of students, artists, locals and University faculty present.

“This practice of working in a collaborative fashion, sort of developing work and conversation with one another, over a very extended period of time is a key aspect of the project,” she said.