A Coal Mining Landscape

The work that goes into creating the city continues to come into focus. Drone and surveillance technologies, coupled with big data and mapping tools, reveal, record and distribute hidden processes of landscape mining through digital means worldwide and immediately.

The Landscape of Coal Mining, the name of this series of footage, takes the specific instances of coal mining. The site is specific but it could be anywhere. The equipment is ubiquitous and, by now, well-known to audiences urban and rural. The speed at which the footage is displayed is at times frantic, the machines whirling and twisting in a landscape that slowly transitions from vibrant color to a monochromatic palette. At other times the footage is slow, revealing the work of and on land deliberately.

Stock footage is associated with the passive consumption of the viewer rather than calling for an active and critical participation. These videos, though edited from their original form in terms of length, saturation, and field of view, are sourced from stock footage to amplify the point that not only could these landscapes be anywhere but the subject matter itself has become so mundane as to move from act to banality, from question to ordinary.

The landscape ecologist Richard Forman gave up discussing individual regions, defined by a set of normative features such as transportation networks or economic boundaries, to thinking of landscapes, comprised of a complex set of diverse systems with open-ended boundaries. He defines landscape as an ecology that “focuses on the spatial relationships, fluxes, and changes in species, energy, and materials across large land mosaics.” Understanding the landscape as the concentration of a particular set of spatial relationships dispenses with questions about the inherent differences between city and nature. Head-scratching propositions on whether ‘nature-embedded-in-city’ or ‘city-embedded-in-nature’ is the appropriate framework for thinking about the built environment gives way to the more fundamental question of the nature of nature itself: it is neither city nor natural, neither architecture nor region.