2020 MFA Alumni Thesis Exhibition

Dorsey Kaufmann

Years of Life Lost

The forced extraction of raw materials and life forms from the Earth’s biosphere sustains human feats of modernity. From precious metals to fossil fuels, from copper to uranium, and the rare earth minerals essential to modern infrastructure and electronics, the history of mining is deeply rooted in the unfolding sociopolitical climate of the Sonoran Desert. By transforming ore into commodities, corporate mining throughout the Sonoran Desert has been a source of immense wealth for some, but has also led to waste, environmental contamination, illness and premature death in rural, low-income, predominantly communities of color.

Years of Life Lost is a multimedia art installation that visualizes this toxic aftermath through slag rock, a mining byproduct left behind in massive mounds of waste, and glass bones that represent the years of life lost by people living near waste due to the harmful chemicals that enter their body without their consent. The promise of industrialization to modernize and improve our lives is contrasted with the reality of the underlying intentions of corporate operations that produce and prioritize value in monetary form while devaluing and harming ecosystems necessary for life and the environmental health of local communities. Within the exhibition, the viewer is witness to the political and economic forces that are enmeshed in constellations of flesh, tissue, rock, bone, soil, and precious moments of life that were never lived.