- - Sub-structures - -

“Planetary scale computation involves the whole earth from which silica, steel and all manner of conflict minerals are drawn.” (The Stack, B.H. Bratton)

In mathematical logic, a substructure is a structure whose domain is a subset of that of a bigger structure, and whose functions and relations are the traces of the functions and relations of the bigger structure.

“Sub-structures”, takes the form of an installation of discrete sculptural assemblages. These amalgams result from cogitations on our superfluous world of materials, components and ultra-hybrid structures. Through this exploration I attempt to de-mystify the technological whilst following the trails of networked, materialist capitalism back to their source, unpacking technology to investigate and reveal its materiality.

Focusing particularly on rare earths I began an enquiry into their genealogy, multitude of applications, supply chains, political impact, geochemical properties, extraction processes and global demand.

Rare earth elements have played a vital role in the acceleration of technological advances and innovations. Despite their descriptor they are not actually rare, they are abundant throughout the earths crust, yet not commonly found in large quantities in a single location, furthermore the process of extracting and separating requires specialist equipment and chemical processing resulting in a lot of toxic and radioactive waste. As Rare Earths are fundamental to modern technology and are not so easily attainable, they are increasingly valuable (rare).

Their link to technology dates back to CRT TVs where red phosphors were made from Yttrium oxide-sulfide activated with europium. Today you could find some form of rare earth in almost all technological products i.e. iPhones, hard drives, LEDs, CFL light bulbs, liquid crystal displays, hybrid cars, wind turbines, lasers, face creams, refrigerators and a host of military applications. China is the world’s biggest rare earth producer with 95% of global production, thus giving them considerable power within the technological and military industries. Other countries that are currently mining rare earths are mainly America, Russia, India, Malaysia, Australia, Vietnam and Brazil. As our demand to “upgrade” accelerates there has even been speculation of future extra-terrestrial mining.