Paths not yet known – potential ways forward for artists addressing the climate crisis

A forested path through Nuuskio National Forest in Espoo, Finland

A forested path through Nuuskio National Forest in Espoo, Finland

       Since moving to Finland I’ve been enamoured with the accessibility of nature, the ease at which one can slip into it, unnoticed, and become fully immersed – and in my experience easily lost. The forests here are quiet, less occupied by wildlife compared to the forests of my home in Canada. They are largely uncluttered, both visually and audibly. It’s as if they are just forests, and not home to an entire ecosystem of organisms and communities. The trees, flora, and fauna are all seemingly neutral to their surroundings. On the surface, they are passive observers, the ‘historical actors’ of modern forestry (Tsing, 2017, p. 202). But below the soil is an active network of communication, much like our own human data infrastructures. As Susan Simard, a Candian scientist and forest ecologist, in reference to her collaborative work with biologist Kevin Beiler, suggests that “subterranean connections form a mycorrhizal network, now known colloquially as the “Wood Wide Web,” with a topology similar to that of neural networks, stream networks in watersheds, and the internet.” (Simard, 2021).   

Underground Network

Source: Suzanne Simard, Finding the Mother Tree: Discovering the Wisdom of the Forest

     With this in mind, I walked through Nuuskio National Forest with classmates on a mushrooming excursion and I thought a lot about the trails and the pathways – the networks on the surface. We started on a paved path, clearly marked and designated, engineered by and for human passage. But as we delved deeper into the forest our paths became progressively less trodden, and naturally, we also made our own paths – surely any mushrooms that bloomed near paths would be picked already. What drew my curiosity were the paths-to-be; the paths that weren’t yet established but you could tell that a human, if not a few, had trodden before. Is it by chance that I chose to follow this near-invisible line through the forest? Like a hunter tracking an animal, only this time I’m following the hints of a human before me. I consider what the tipping point is for a path to become established – how many times does this sequence of steps need to be made before it becomes separated from its natural distribution? Trails and paths change and flow over time, nudged one way or the other by obstacles in the terrain or altered by changing weather conditions. I wonder what patterns of paths will emerge between now and my next visit – will this near-path be here next year? This effect of human visitors in the forest, the fanning out and trampling of ground reminds me of the technological imperative of humans to mark their territory, lay down lines of communication, forever searching for the path of least resistance in their domination of nature.  

     What started out as an innocent excursion into the woods has affirmed my individual responsibility to hasten what I believe will be the cultural reckoning of my generation. The importance of acknowledging the magnitude of human impact by way of the Anthropocene and our problematic consumption habits needs to be addressed on both individual and institutional scales. Tobias Brosch outlines in their study on emotional drivers of climate change that if we consider ‘the mechanisms by which emotions influence decisions and actions may help design more efficient interventions” in relation to perceptions about climate change (Brosch,2021).  Further, John Thøgersen outlines in their paper “Consumer Behavior and Climate Change” that individual consumption habits have a significant role to play in reducing impact, especially when paired with governments and companies making “climate-friendly behavior the ‘easy’ behavior” (Thøgersen, 2021).  

    What if the creation of artworks combines this knowledge of emotional drivers and consumer behavior? Perhaps we can forge a new way forward that is holistic and self-aware of the extractive impact our consumer behavior has on our surroundings both immediate and far-flung. My path has formed a loop, a complete circuit, where humans are both the vector and the virus. As a visual artist, I see my role as one that distributes the vaccine – one that works towards individual and collective change through cultural and societal awareness through immersive experiences.  


Brosch, T. (2021). Affect and emotions as drivers of climate change perception and action: a review. Current Opinion in Behavioral Sciences42, 15–21. 

Simard, S. (2021). Finding the Mother Tree: Discovering the Wisdom of the Forest. Knopf. 

Thøgersen, J. (2021). Consumer behavior and climate change: consumers need considerable assistance. Current Opinion in Behavioral Sciences42, 9–14. 

Tsing, A. L. (2017). The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins (Reprint ed.). Princeton University Press. 

About seeing

You know for certain, that there they are, looming under some decaying matter, or huddled together, almost as if gossiping under your blind eye, or sometimes even standing defiantly in a clearing, being so certain that you’re going to miss it and walk by. Mushroom foraging always starts like this, even though you know what you’re looking for, and even which way to look (usually down). At first you just can’t see them. Then, after a while or two your eyes adjust: what you thought was a dead leaf just a second ago, is actually a delicious chanterelle[1], and right there, where there definitely was absolutely nothing, there is a band of yellowfoot[2], still probably giggling at you in their what-ever-counts-as-a-mind for fungi. For what ever reason, it’s always hardest to spot the mushrooms that you crave for. The first ones that you spot are always your poison paxes[3] and similar ones that you either won’t recognise (=you don’t pick!!!!) or the ones that you don’t want (=also don’t pick!!).

During this autumn I’ve been thinking a lot about mushrooms, but also the materialism and infrastructures that fuel and funnel our digital desires. Funnily enough, it seems as though it’s just as hard to see those infrastructures, as it is to see the mushroom at first, even though those infrastructures are also right under our proverbial noses. 

We’ve had quite a run on our technological developments during the last few decades. It’s undeniably incredible that we have all the knowledge in the world at our literal fingertips everywhere we go, whether it’s underground in the metro or deep in the forest (looking for the mushroom for instance). However, it seems as though the pace we’ve been moving has also blurred our vision and we’re not seeing all that is going on behind the scenes. And it hasn’t helped, that some of the companies driving these developments have been downplaying the issues and urged us to look at only the nice and edible mushrooms, keeping the underlaying mycelia of child labour[4], e-waste[5] and rising CO2-emissions[6] hidden away in the soil.

The thing with development is that whether it’s for the good or for the worse, it still becomes the prevalent state, overriding the previous one. For instance, it would be impossible to convince our civilisation to stop using our technology altogether and go back to, say the technology of the 60’s. (And even if we did, we’d be doing more harm on different departments, by using DDT or freon-fridges.) What we can do, is try to affect the direction we’re heading next. By having the discussion of where the minerals that make our tech run come from and what impacts it has on the people and the environment on all the stages of the process, we make it harder for the companies to focus on just the shiny parts. In the forest, when we eventually have those mushroom hunting glasses on, we can still only see the fruiting body of the fungus. With technology, we must have and take the option to see the whole organism.


[1] – 

[2] – 

[3] – 

[4] – 

[5] – 

[6] – 

Extracting land and information

One could call them scars, those in the earth’s crust that dominate the satellite images in Google Maps while I browse through the aerial view of the northern landscape. The images are locations of the mining industry in different parts of Finland. By seeing them I am hoping to find some meaning in these cuts, in the toxic lakes surrounding the mine site, and in the industrial buildings that are the heart of those places, refining minerals and ore, crushing and reforming them into something of use to the industrial and post-industrial needs. How the mine defines the surrounding nature, how the remaining nature relates to the mine, almost succumbing to its presence, and how the not-so-distant human settlements loom on the rims of the mine site, underlying the point that this is something man-made, our mark on nature. In a way like Edward Burtynsky with his photos of the Anthropocene, I am trying to understand man-made change through visual output. Instead of a lens of my own, I have chosen the satellites covering every inch of this planet.

Lake Lefroy, Western Australia [1]

There are 44 mines in operation in Finland [1]. The total land extraction amount they amass was 115,1 million tonnes in 2019 [2]. The biggest extractor is Kevitsa, near the town of Sodankylä in the Arctic Circle, which extracted 39,5 million tonnes of land in 2020 [3]. The amount sounds gigantic, like some entity pushing their metallic claws deep into the already disturbed and fragile biosphere. But to put this amount into perspective, the yearly amount of extracted land in the world sums up to almost 90 billion tons [4], a sum so enormous that it escapes the mind’s ability to comprehend it. It becomes just an abstraction, a vast row of numbers escaping to the fringes of the conscious mind. In a mine like Kevitsa, the yearly amount of mining waste is 38 million tonnes and from that only 7 percent is utilized in the mining area. The non-useful material will end up in designated dumping sites.

Kevitsa open pit mine, Finland [2]

Waste generated by sector and type in Finland, 2019 [3]

The largest extractor is also the most power hungry. Kevitsa produces 424 GWh of electricity every year [5]. The Mining industry in Finland as a whole used 2,1 TWh of energy in 2014 [6]. This is a small fraction of Finland’s yearly usage of energy, that rounds up to 81 terawatt-hours [7]. So, how can the scale of this be show? If we compare this to Bitcoin mining, its estimated annual consumption is around 117 terawatt-hours [8]. It’s more than the whole consumption of Finland. If we make the comparison scale even larger we can look at the amount of energy the global mining industry uses yearly. While I’m writing this, the counter on the website The World Counts  – a site that calculates in real time things related to the human impact on this planet –  is over 50 billion gigajoules [9]. That is around 14 028 terawatt-hours. Almost twice the amount of energy China (7 510 TWh) used in the year 2020 [10].

Deepest man-made open pit mine in the world, Bingham copper mine in Utah, USA [4]

The further I reach in my study to understand what mining is the more information I accumulate: the minerals excavated, carbon footprint, water usage, toxic chemicals used, and so on. The list adds up and I become overburdened by the information I process. It’s all related to the rising demand of raw materials needed to keep the information society running. From devices needed for crypto mining to communication gadgets, the depletion of Earth’s resources is fast and gaining speed every year.

Rise in consumption of mineral resources between 2000 – 2018 [5]

Maybe, this age will leave its marks on Earth’s crust. Our usage of its finite resources will lead to building a new sediment on top of natural one, one made out of communication, like from the apparatuses made to connect us. We will become etched to the deeper time of Earth itself and maybe some variation of us will mine it to their yet not known needs in the distant future.



[1]&[2] Liikamaa, Terho. 2020. Ajankohtaiskatsaus: Malminetsintä ja kaivosteollisuus 2019. Turvallisuus- ja kemikaalivirasto (Tukes).

[3]&[5] Kaivosvastuu. 2020. 2020 Boliden Kevitsa Mining Oy.

[4] IRP. 2020. Resource Efficiency and Climate Change: Material Efficiency Strategies for a Low-Carbon Future. Hertwich, E., Lifset, R., Pauliuk, S., Heeren, N. A report of the International Resource Panel. United Nations Environment Programme, Nairobi, Kenya.

[6] Yle. 2015. Kaivosteollisuus putsaa Talvivaaran tahrat – tiesitkö nämä faktat.

[7] Tilastokeskus. 2021.

[8] Huang, Jon. O’Neill, Claire. Tabuchi, Hiroko. 2021. Bitcoin Uses More Electricity Than Many Countries. How Is That Possible? New York Times.

[9] The World Counts. 15.11.2021:

[10] Statista. 2021. Electricity consumption in China between 2010 and 2020.

Photo & illustration credits:

[1] Burtynsky, Edward. 2007.

[2] Google Maps

[3] Tilastokeskus. 2021.

[4] Google Earth

[5] Michaux, Simon P. 2021. The Mining of Minerals and the Limits to
Growth. Geological Survey of Finland Report 16/2021: 4.





Just wandering

In these past few weeks we have been deep diving in the topic of media and the environment and the negative effects our modern technology and manufacturing processes have on earth. We started our journey in none other than the Nuuksio natural forest picking mushrooms and especially looking for a specific one called Matsutake. The Matsutake flourishes on forest areas where trees have been cut or are largely populated by us humans. We didn’t find any on our field trip although the surrounding area that we wandered around has been known to produce these treats. 

During the recent pandemic the natural parks and recreational areas around the metropolitan area of Helsinki have been in heavy use. Since the pandemic locked most of us inside to work and do home schooling, going out to enjoy the woods with a safe distance has been on the rise. I spent my childhood with a direct access to the woods from my backyard. Since making my move to the capital area I didn’t really think too much about it in recent years until realising that I need to travel quite a while to reach some decent forest area from my home during the pandemic. This lead me making a few trips back to my home town during the pandemic to do remote work and enjoy the luxury of mostly empty forest areas of the west coast. 

In a recent article in Helsingin Sanomat a crew of journalists went around Helsinki with a guide to explore some hidden gems of untouched or reserved nature areas that might not be that well known with the general public. The article states that even in these mostly unknown areas the risen interest in outdoors activities has left its marks. The moss has mostly disappeared from the rocks and the roots have been revealed under the ground. Our active use of these areas puts these fragile pieces of land in jeopardy of losing its natural habitants and vegetation. So nurturing and respecting these areas as how they are is crucial. In the final conclusions of the article my attention was caught in with the sentence – “In the future untouched nature might be something that we need to explore from behind a rope like in a museum.” A terrible thought.

When trying to find positive thoughts about the material that we have been watching and learning about is tough. Our utilisation of the earth as an endless source of energy and materials doesn’t seem to have a limit. One of the most breathtaking material was from areas which have been through a heavy chemical process in trying to harvest or refine minerals for new electronic devices or batteries. The scale of our footprint is quite literally shown in these sites which are left behind too dangerous to access even with proper safety equipment years later. Talking about these topics at the class has been very interesting although it can leave a feeling of hopelessness very easily for an individual.

Main thoughts and action points that have risen for me during the course have been mostly about how much energy is wasted with us taking it for granted. I am interested in old technology in my art practices and that has led me to investigate the possibilities of the ease of repair and maintenance of old equipment more thoroughly. The good news has been that EU has raised this issue. Hopefully in the future new technology will be designed and manufactured in such way that it can be maintained and recycled better. Other interesting topic was the introduction to crypto currencies and new ways of getting your digital work distributed. Seeing how many artists joined the first NFT movement made me hope for a new alternative for making a living as an artist. Although after having the discussion in the class made me hold back for a second and investigate more in hopes for a more sustainable option. The search that still continues. 

the U-turn to the ephemeral

The image of the media and technology in public opinion has changed a lot in the past couple of decades. This change has been so drastic, that it could easily be called an U-turn.

It’s easy to see after having a quick look at how technology and progress were portrayed in the media since the beginning of broadcasting and mass information distribuition. Even though the age of the broadcasting truly began in the 1920s and 1930s (Briggs and Burke 2005, 254), and this is also when the term ‘media’ in it’s current meaning makes its first appearance in the Oxford English Dictionary (Briggs and Burke 2005, 9), we could still speculate that from the times of Gutenberg’s printing revolution until the relatively recent widespread digitalisation of the media and the era of internet dominance, the image of the progress was sharing very similar features. Meaning, technology and progress were portrayed as an expansion of industrialisation in all aspects of life and extensive use of resources with every time more sophisticated and elaborate ways for their extraction and application. Examples of such portrayal could be easily found in propaganda materials during the cold war, for instance, when a considerable amount of Public Service Announcements and propaganda materials were distributed for public demonstrating endless rows of conveyor belts in factories, thousands of kilometers of new roads, countless tons of ore extracted, more and more machines being produced, etc. showing the future tightly bound with intense production and industries of all sorts.

fig. 1 (Grebennikov, 1972)

Portraying progress as something requiring abundance of industrial production sites and heavy machinery is no longer viable nowadays. Since the world has gradually become more aware of the environmental effects of heavy industries and became more mindful about the limited amount of resources, a positive image of technology has transformed to something quite the opposite: a clean, neat, more minimalistic idea of it is now favoured by the public opinion. Devices get slick and elegant designs and a lot there’s an illusion that everything in the modern world is just about the data. The technical “ugly” side of the modern technologies is thus often being hidden. None of the companies offering cloud services and data storage are advertising it as a business maintaining a great number of warehouses with millions of units of hardware, kilometers of cables and all the expenses that come along to serve and sustain this infrastructure of storing the data.

The illusory ‘lightness’ of ‘clouds’ is being sold to the clients so efficiently that many are not aware of its technical backside at all. The other thing that doesn’t get mentioned is the current set of issues with cloud services regarding their vulnerability in data privacy, for instance. It has been proven that there are tools allowing for a transparent access to encrypted information stored in the cloud without the tenant’s knowledge (Urias, 2018, 65).

Some modern artists are bringing this into attention focusing their work on the troubling points of a data-to-person dialogue. Addie Wagenknecht tackled the idea of the data being portrayed as something ephemeral, whereas it is actually still quite physical, in her sculpture pieces called Cloud Farming (2014) and Kilohydra (2014) from the “Data and Dragons” exhibition.

Cloud Farming, A. Wagenknecht, 2014

Kilohydra, A. Wagenknecht, 2014

The pieces use wifi and internet cables, read the information from their surroundings, the information is being processed, but the sculpture never shares its findings (Wagenknecht, 2014).

Part of the sculpture’s actions thus remain unseen just like the technical side of the data-handling infrastructures nowadays.

1. Briggs, Asa., and Peter. Burke. A Social History of the Media : from Gutenberg to the Internet . 2nd ed. Cambridge: Polity, 2005. Print.

2. G. Grebennikov. The industry of the next 5 years, 1972. Filmstrip archive,

3. V. E. Urias, W. M. S. Stout, C. Loverro and B. Van Leeuwen, “Get Your Head Out of the Clouds: The Illusion of Confidentiality & Privacy,” 2018 IEEE 8th International Symposium on Cloud and Service Computing (SC2), 2018, pp. 57-66, doi: 10.1109/SC2.2018.00015.

4. Cloud Farming, A. Wagenknecht, 2014.,

5. Addie Wagenknechts website, 2014.

Out of the dichotomy: the circulating ambivalence

The world we humans live in has a peculiar attribute. That is an ambivalence, which can be negative or positive for our lives. ‘Yin-Yang’ from the Eastern notion about the universal truth is a frame, dealing with such attributes in our surroundings. As a frame to see the world, Yin-Yang embraces the contradictory elements by noticing and appreciating to find the harmony between the elements and makes the synergy from the harmony (Li 2014, 322). As to see this frame ‘Yin-Yang’, the opposite characteristic features in humankind can co-exist, making the balance between them. That is a more positive fact on the ambivalence, and then it can be the capacity of ambidexterity. Meanwhile, two-sidedness with the development of media technology is newly engendered, comparing the Utopia and Dystopia. How can we find the balance between the dichotomy, and how can the two-sidedness co-exist more positively?

The origin of the word ‘Utopia’ means a non-place, the place of nowhere. In other words, Utopia is a fantastic place that will never exist out of dreams. Nevertheless, people are struggling to make the world a Utopia with media technology because the Utopia is also a societal vision as a better world (Fuchs 2020, 149). However, ‘what the better world is?’ makes some people think and act dichotomously about technological development, humanity, and nature. We, humans, are surrounded by devices that contain Artificial Intelligence for almost 365 days. These devices have become elements such as another vital organ of the human body to communicate with each other or for our own convenient life. Compared to the previous human life familiar with analogue decades ago, modern people enjoy a similar life as in Utopia in terms of convenience. Some people even regard AI in devices as a universal solution for any problem in contemporary society. But others blame this technology with a dystopian perspective that machine intelligence may ultimately dominate or destroy humans (Crawford 2021, 214). The technological and human-societal views on the development of AI technology are not sufficient to show the polarized two sides of media technology. It is because more dystopian situations can be found in nature. 

As modern times is a capitalist society, more and more people pursue a “development” without knowing its end for their benefit. Otherwise, some people tend to step into the development of media technology to improve the negative factor of society, such as monopoly capitalism. Nevertheless, humans inevitably encounter the problem behind technological development, and the matter is clearly revealed from an environmental point of view. Most digital devices containing artificial intelligence technology require lithium batteries, and some specific areas must become a mining town for this lithium material. Eventually, the mining area is a world of dystopia due to environmental pollution. Therefore, voices to conserve the environment at the individual or social level are becoming increasingly radical in recent years. That can be a defence mechanism against ourselves seeking development because the global environment is where humanity must live for a lifetime, so the environment crisis provokes our anxiety naturally. 

As a pursuit of media technology development progresses rapidly, ambivalence as a human’s natural characteristic creates a rapid movement that conflicts with the development. It is impossible to achieve perfect harmony according to the frame of Yin-Yang as the end of the extremes cannot be anticipated. However, rather than paying attention to the extremes of the two sides, we need to look at both sides objectively as recognizing the middle of humankind’s progress. This attitude can be found in nature, and the rare Matsutake in the forest is an example. Matsutake has been creating relationships with things around them to live in destroyed nature for a long time before they become mushrooms. In other words, the mushroom, organizing its relationships with soil and trees on its existing place without any future expectations, seems to create its own destiny. Similarly, rather than solving the unpredictable end of the contrasting aspects of technological development, we humans need to keep looking at the relationships between technology, humans, and the natural environment and continue asking various questions about them. That is the one way to get out of the dichotomy regarding the development of media technology.

From the current point of view, the environmental crisis is a problem sacrificed for media technology. However, all the progress of technological development can not be stopped to solve the critical situation. In the future aspect, the pursuit of technology may be inevitable at the current moment. In this regard, it is a dilemma to judge what is clearly right and wrong in the ambivalence of technological development. From the 18th century, Scottish geologist James Hutton described the Earth’s evolution as a dynamic cycle of erosion, deposition, consolidation, and uplifting before erosion starts the cycle anew (Zielinski 2006, 4). Likewise, when we take a step back, trying to find a point that connects the two sides from the ambivalence will positively impact the growth of humankind. In the end, the ambivalence on media technology will begin to co-exist in the evolutionary cycle of humanity and the environment.


[ References ]

Li, Peter Ping. “The Unique Value of Yin-Yang Balancing: A Critical Response.” Management and Organization Review 10, no. 2 (2014): 321-32.

Fuchs, Christian. “The Utopian Internet, Computing, Communication, and Concrete Utopias: Reading William Morris, Peter Kropotkin, Ursula K. Le Guin, and P.M. in the Light of Digital Socialism.” tripleC: Communication, Capitalism & Critique. Open Access Journal for a Global Sustainable Information Society 18, no.1 (2020): 146-186.

Crawford, Kate. 2021. The Atlas of AI Power, Politics, and the Planetary Costs of Artificial Intelligence. Yale University Press.

Zielinski, Siegfried. 2006. Deep Time of the Media: Toward an Archaeology of Hearing and Seeing by Technical Means. The MIT Press


[ Project reference images]

“Concave-Convex”, Bruno Munari


“Moebius Loop”, Christian Marclay


“Mobius strip”, Christine Cathi


“Mobius” interactive circular bench,  Louis Lim (Makingworks)


The Dreamers

Technological systems despite their material origins, labor demanding existence, and the long-lasting afterlife are to a large extent seen as just that – immaterial and invisible computation. Deep neural network algorithms are characterized as astounding but mysterious as the theoretical understanding of how and why neural networks are so successful is still lacking (Campolo and Crawford 2020, 7). Ethereum backed NFT markets became widely popular and roaring in the digital artist’s circles despite the lack of knowledge and understanding of the environmental impacts (Akten 2021). And now there is an ongoing discussion of Web 3.0 once again implying urgency and a promise of some better future. The excitement over the technological successes in the first case and hype in the other simply makes the materialities boring and too complex as they are lacking in magic and enchantment of yet another technological promise.

Magic and dependence on systems that even their designers do not fully comprehend sound counterintuitive when for several centuries the modern world has relied on and celebrated rational human thought. It seemed that even if the larger population does not understand the particularities of programs and algorithms, their creators and experts do. But Campolo and Crawford argue that there is a significant component of enchantment, mythology, and alchemy in the discourse of computational, specifically deep learning and AI technologies. Computer scientists admit that while the systems produce astounding results, there is no full understanding of how and why it happens. Enchanted determinism describes this discourse and practice – enchanted as inexplicable and magical, but deterministic in shaping both the perception and outcomes in the deployment of deep learning systems in social domains where they constitute a form of power without knowledge (Campolo and Crawford 2020, 3–5).

The narratives of Anthropocene and the human relationship to the natural environment are accompanied by a range of emotions and attitudes – nostalgia, elegiac moods, fear, and pessimism, as well as excitement, determination, and a sense of an alliance and purpose. If seen in binary terms, the pessimists are concerned with the environmental damage and catastrophic consequences of human life on the planet whereas the optimists reimagine the future not as one without humans, but as nature shaped and designed by humans in a form of synthetic ecologies (Heise 2016, 203–213). To be honest, the critique of environmentalists’ nostalgic narrative strategies seemed disturbing and violent at first, while the optimistic views, on the other hand, sounded like ungrounded and fictitious dreaming, rooted in God-like fantasies of human intelligence.

Nevertheless, it could be relieving to associate with one or the other, either/or, as the awareness of complexities and entanglements is mostly tiring and perplexing. The existence without grand truths is indeed confusing, and awareness of ever-present environmental and technological risks with no clear solutions renders the existence precarious and unstable. As Anna Tsing notes, precarity is the condition of our time, (…) we are not in control, even of ourselves (Tsing 2015, 20). Chun argues that this postmodern confusion is overcome by the power over action via user interfaces – the dream of control and agency (Chun 2011, 60–63). User interface hides the mysterious and daemonic computation happening behind the screen, providing a sense of mastery over Files, My Documents, Desktop and Home while hiding the boards, wires, material realities, and labor that make the interface possible in the first place. And at the same time, it brings some sense of control to the human.

As it is widely stated now the planet and humanity are facing some serious deadlines requiring action, not stories (Bratton 2019), so both nostalgia and dreaming of complete synthetic terraforming seem like paralyzing strategies. Given this appeal of magic and techno-optimism, an inner need for some, albeit illusionary, sense of control, complemented with a wish to simply forget the consequences and wastelands of the computational (Crawford 2021, 36), the human truly is more of a dreamer, and less of a champion of reason.

A picture of a kaleidoscopic view made of mushrooms

Mycoscope, still frame.



Akten, Memo. 2021. ‘The Unreasonable Ecological Cost of #CryptoArt’. Medium (blog). 15 October 2021.

Bratton, Benjamin. 2019. The Terraforming. Strelka Press.

Campolo, Alexander, and Kate Crawford. 2020. ‘Enchanted Determinism: Power without Responsibility in Artificial Intelligence’. Engaging Science, Technology, and Society 6 (January): 1–19.

Chun, Wendy Hui Kyong. 2011. Programmed Visions: Software and Memory. MIT Press.

Crawford, Kate. 2021. The Atlas of AI: Power, Politics, and the Planetary Costs of Artificial Intelligence. Yale University Press.

Heise, Ursula K. 2016. Imagining Extinction: The Cultural Meanings of Endangered Species. University of Chicago Press.

Tsing, Anna Lowenhaupt. 2015. The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins. The Mushroom at the End of the World. Princeton University Press.


I came here to fight fire with fire, or so I thought.

The most basic function of an artist is to engage in the act of creation, to visualize, make, materialize. To bring something into being – a physical or digital something – that previously didn’t exist. Being an artist is predicated on the idea of bringing forth form using raw materials. Further, there is a society obligation to try and create something new amongst a sea of recycled, yet, unrecyclable ideas.   

I have long grappled with the materiality of my practice as an artist. I have moved away from using petroleum based products by looking for naturally derived alternatives. I have sought out sustainable options and smaller, local producers and even made some of my own products. I have slowly shifted my practice to become less reliant on consuming physical materials. It was largely a practical decision, but in effect it was a way to reduce my impact, take up less space, be more efficient, all the while potentially reaching a larger audience. Choosing to create digitally, to not use ‘new’ resources seemed like a good first step – a streamlined approach I could feel good about, or so I thought.

 There are many things I miss about my material practice, a brush brush meeting canvas, the tactile nature of building and putting my hands to work – there is a physical immediacy that is sorely lacking in the analogues of a digital practice. When one works with raw, unprocessed materials it is easier to make a connection between their earthly sources – their physical existence and potential environmental impact. Eventually, making the choice to consume those materials for something like my art practice became a hard pill to swallow. Creating digitally meant I could do more by using less, right?

In reality the calculus for my decision to reducing my material impact should be the same regardless of the medium. There is a material cost to all products, even if the materials themselves aren’t actively extractive or consumptive. When I made this decision for myself, the environmental cost of using technology instead of traditional materials didn’t really cross my mind.

Why is it that we are so fooled by the slick chrome and black allure of technology that we forget that it is composed of earthly elements? The components that make up our devices are not alien ingredients, they are Earth-borne and bound. The form they take is arguably increasingly alien – highly processed and refined to the point where they become impenetrable (but fragile, and expensive) blocks. We are so far removed from the destructive extractive processes used to facilitate our addiction to communication and consumption of content through technology. Much less do the smooth refined edges of our devices tell us of the inequity, racism and mass exploitation of people, plants, animals and environments everywhere. But this disguise is a well-planned, well-oiled capitalist marketing machine that a majority of us choose to pretend doesn’t exist. 

It has been a bit of a moral reckoning to go down the path of learning the true cost of our technological tools – both in my art practice, but also as a human person with a poor sense of direction who needs a GPS. Knowing that we have broached a technological rubicon and have a serious substance/resource abuse issue is a heavy burden to carry alone. Individually I know that my personal choices are a drop in the contaminated pond, but I also have to believe that there is a way for media art to be the added fuel we need in this firefight of overconsumption.