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SOCIAL BIG SPILLS

2021 Project
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The aestheticisation of oil spills and their viral spreading through the lens of social networks are two phenomena with which we have become all too familiar. The transgression of the bright and beautiful hues of oil slicks, reflecting sunlight, attracts our attention; momentary awe masks the drastic metabolic effects on humans and non-humans. It is the negligence of government officials and businesses that has led to these environmental catastrophes, with little to no concern for their short or long-term effects.

This design proposal responds to an event on the 29th of May 2020, when an oil spill took place in the city of Norilsk, Siberia. Some 21,000 tonnes of diesel leaked into the nearby Ambamaya River, polluting an area of about 180,000 square metres. It revolves around a particular false proverb that layers of oil and water do not mix, leading to false assumptions of potential futures. Political negligence meant officials—including President Vladimir Putin—were only made aware of the spill two days later and publicly, via social media.

The aestheticisation of the oil demonstrates the potential of social media to influence action, with corporations no longer able to escape from the public exposure of social media platforms. The power of social networks presents us with a unique opportunity—to be citizen journalists, and to influence action. 

In this proposal, I move between the roles of designer, political activist, lawyer and mediator as an “architectish” in an effort to expand architecture’s potential to influence global systems and policy. By staging an online campaign, forecasting from 50 years into the future metabolic, this project asks: what do speculative futures of aestheticised remediated environments that explore ideas of bioengineered futures look like? Creating a connection between the viral spread of the oil spill through the social networks and the rhizosphere networks of nature, the staging of these interventions through an online campaign is done to provoke political action and environmental strategy implementation. How can an adaptable strategy be created that connects activists on the ground anywhere around the world?

Norilsk Oil Spill, 29 May 2020

Viral Social Media Networks, Event "O"

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Site: Norilsk, Krasnoyarsk Krai, Russia (69.456460, 87.929419).

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