A Coal Mining Landscape

The distance between urban form and the surrounding rural landscape is collapsing. Through drone and surveillance technologies, and through the proliferation of technological innovation by which we mine natural resources, the work that goes into creating the city comes into focus. The hidden processes of landscape mining are not only revealed but recorded and distributed through digital means worldwide and immediately.

The Landscape of Coal Mining, the name of this footage, takes one such instance, that of a specific coal mining landscape. The site is specific but it could be anywhere. The equipment is ubiquitous and, by now, well-known to all audiences, whether urban or rural. The speed at which the footage is displayed is frantic, the machines whirling and twisting in a landscape that slowly transitions from vibrant color to a monochromatic palette.

Stock footage is associated with the passive consumption of the viewer rather than calling for an active and critical participation. This video, though edited from its original form in terms of length, saturation, and field of view, is sourced from stock footage to amplify the point that not only could this landscape be anywhere but the subject matter itself has become so mundane as to move from novel to ordinary.

The landscape ecologist Richard Forman, moves from discussing individual regions, defined by a set of normative features such as transportation networks or economic boundaries, to landscapes, which bring with them fuzzy boundaries and a complex set of diverse systems. 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.