Rocks, roots, unearth

At the Dexing Copper Mine in China, copper mining has marked the landscape by infertility and toxicity. Despite these adverse conditions, mine workers have adopted part-time gardening on this very land, engaging in an almost paradoxical act of nurturing the soil that their primary occupation continues to degrade.  

Looking into the interconnectedness between mine workers and the land through their labour in mining and gardening, I explore the complex exchanges between what people extract from the land and what the land, in its altered state, takes in return.

Through engaging with the miners who have turned part of their lives to gardening, I seek to uncover the personal narratives that weave through their daily lives, reflecting on their bond with the altered land beneath their feet.  

Through a mixed-media approach that combines photography, video documentation, and copper plate etching prints made from tailing sand collected from the mine, the project investigates the interactions between human and nonhuman forces that are central to this infertility. The video, In the Trace of Tilled Stones (20 minutes), offers a situated perspective that unfolds the miners' lived experiences and reflections. Meanwhile, the etching prints bring a second perspective, imprinting the human dialogue with the landscape onto layers of sedimented toxicity, which highlights the intricate and often overlooked connections that define our relationship with the environment through materiality. 

Film still from In the Trace of Tilled Stones, 20 min, 2024.