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The Collective Dig: A Paper Theatre on the Myths of Extraction


Project developed for Werkleitz Festival 2023 – My Precious [“Mein Schatz”]
The Granary and Inspector’s House at Novalis-Museum Wiederstedt
Curated by Daniel Herrmann and Alexander Klose

The Collective Dig


The installation was commissioned by Werkleitz for its 2023 Festival at the Novalis Museum in Wiederstedt, Germany. The region has a historical significance as a copper mining area and is known as the home of Novalis. Figures extracted from the book “De Re Metallica,” were transformed into paper actors for 9 acts set in cardboard stages with scenarios.


A play was written in English using language processing tools and drawing from various literary sources* to construct dialogues and verses, forming a libretto. To complete the stages, students from the local school (Humbold Gymnasium Hettstedt) contributed by creating scene elements drawn from various minerals. The play delves into a multifaceted debate that questions the myths often employed to defend mining operations.

*Notably, GPT provided insights from Émile Zola’s Germinal, published in 1885. Additionally, I refer to the chapter ‘The Miner’ from Novalis’ 1802 novel Heinrich von Ofterdingen, and De Re Metallica by George Agricola, which was translated into English in 1950 from the original Latin text published in 1556. Furthermore, in the text construction I have actively incorporated direct quotes from the online document titled 15 Myths and Realities of Transnational Mining in Argentina: A Guide to Dismantling the Pro-Mining Imaginary, which is available online in Spanish:  [Machado, H.; Svampa, M.; Viale, E.; Giraud, M.; Wagner, L.; Antonelli, M.; Giarraca, N.; Teubal, M (2011). 15 mitos y realidades de la minera transnacional en la Argentina: Guia para desmontar el imaginario prominero. Buenos Aires: El Colectivo: Herramientas. (Cascotazos). In: Memoria Acadêmica.]

Installation Description:

Presentation table with (37) cutout figures on cardboard, 14 cm each; 9 maquettes on wood and cardboard (50 x 50 x 50 cm) with 37 characters laser printed and cut on cardboard. Stage “rocks” made from punched printed activity reports from Vale’s website from May 2023. Scenarios with drawings by pupils of art classes of the Wilhelm und Alexander von Humboldt Gymnasium Hettstedt guided by teacher Steffi Schmidt. Libretto The collective dig, a paper theatre on the myths of extraction, English, 36 pages, edition of 20, 2023; graphic design by Jônio Bethônico - German translation printed on paper.

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