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Through a systematic examination of the weaknesses of systems, conspiracy and criminality may be viewed as a form of critique - a deceitful narration of ‘legitimate’ practices.

According to the US Geological survey it is estimated that the Arctic is home to the 30% of the planets undiscovered natural gas reserves, 13% of the remaining oil, and vast mineral deposits. These commodities, compounded by the effects of climate change, have exposed the Arctic to corporate profiteering, and the potential geopolitical tension caused by unresolved sovereignty claims.

Who Owns The Arctic is a proposition for several devious money-making schemes specifically designed for the unique environmental, ecological and political composition of the region. These schemes seek to enable small communities to exert agency in the financial environment of the Arctic by viewing greed, conflict, and environmental disaster as another of the regions resources. They encourage the manipulation of licit systems of resource prospecting, insurance and finance to provide reward.

The schemes themselves sit somewhere between plan, proposition and account – they are presented in skeletal form through images, text, animation and tools, as if each is occurring simultaneously.

The schemes serve to hint at the complex and increasingly fraught relationship between the environment, ecology, politics, and economics of the Arctic, and reflect upon the context and distribution of international law and corporate culture.

Interview on We Make Money Not Art

Who Owns The Arctic awarded 1st place in the Think Space Territories competition

The Mineral Rush
The first scheme is called The Mineral Rush. Under the guise of a normal fishing routine on the west coast of Svalbard, Russian men feed Beluga whales with by-catch stuffed with lithium. Whales soon start to show the early signs of lithium toxicity and after 5 days, suffer seizures, organ failure, and eventually die. When the mammals are washed onto the west coast of Svalbard, experts conclude that the metal in their bodies indicates the presence of vast deposits of lithium off the Svalbard coast. These rumors ultimately trickling through to the 39 signatory states of the Svalbard treaty, countries who retain the right to undertake commercial activities on the island without discrimination.

Oil Spill
The second scheme involves an oil spill caused by devices placed on top of icebergs that travel from the northern tip of Greenland into to North Atlantic. On this journey they float past Hans Island and onto the oil fields of Baffin bay and the Labrador sea where, if spotted, they are usually towed a safe distance from the pipelines and oil rigs. But in this scenario the remotely activated devices would shake the iceberg apart. Still large enough to sink a ship or damage a rig, the smaller chunks of ice would not be detected by radar nor by the naked eye. The icebergs would thus float quietly onwards to the oil fields.

Diamond Smuggling
The third scheme involves a person working for the Keystone Pipeline, a pipeline system that transports oil sands bitumen from Canada and the northern United States “primarily to refineries in the Gulf Coast” of Texas. The persons job is to operate a pig launching station. He makes extra money by smuggling goods across borders on board of a “pig“, a devices used to clean and survey the pipeline.
The Fishing Dispute
Russian crab boats travel to the northern tip of the Bering sea. Once the ships have entered the Alaskan king crab fisheries, 20 icosahedron crab pots are deployed and the vessels return to waters within the Russian exclusive economic zone. 2 days later, they come back to tow the catch north, 1,600 km underwater. The pots are released in the Beaufort sea where fishing rights are still claimed by both America and Canada. After 5 days the cotton netting surrounding the pots dissolves, freeing the crabs. An anonymous press leak reporting catches of King crab far beyond their normal range is later sent to newspapers in both Barrow, Alaska, and Toktoyaktuk Harbor, Canada. The resulting scramble for the prized crab meat will greatly increase the opportunity for confrontation between Canadian and American fishermen, driven by confusion over fishing rights.

Project Details
Year: 2013
Client: Personal
©2020 Owen Wells Studio