Aerial Captures: Extractivism and the Logistical Media of Air Travel in Postwar Canada

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Hart, Sydney
maps , extractivism , logistical media , mobilities , air travel
The rapid development of technologies for air travel since the Second World War has contributed to significant changes in how space is perceived, conceived and imagined in Canada. From the extensive mapping conducted by Canadian air survey companies across the world between the late 1940s to the 1970s, to the networks for air travel that carved commercial corridors between urban centres and remote parts of Canada, air travel helped standardize emergent ways of seeing land as transparent, quantifiable and ready for resource extraction. The distanced and calculative view afforded by air travel has helped a small sector of the population to measure, standardize and reify relationships on land, thereby integrating representations of natural resources into transnational systems of circulation. In this portfolio thesis, I examine the media produced through and for air travel in Canada, including air surveys, maps, surveillance systems, and artworks. Postwar developments in air travel, combined with changing border control policies and technologies, also meant the proliferation of extractive ways of seeing the body through biometrics and other imaging technologies in the security theatre of airports. I therefore examine Canada’s three busiest airports, examining their cultural displays and security apparatuses, in order to critically consider visual regimes of governmentality. In this thesis, I outline how extractivism entails the negation of place-based relationality, and its replacement with the relationality of logistics and the world-system. This portfolio thesis takes the form of standalone chapters framed by an introduction and a conclusion, and accompanied by a web-based research-creation project ( This project includes artistic data visualizations examining the widespread use of “fly-in/fly-out” operations in Canada’s gold mining industry, and their wide-ranging environmental, social and cultural implications.
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