boom town

noun(c) /ˈbuːm ˌtaʊn/

-a town undergoing rapid growth due to sudden prosperity. BOOMTOWN consists of two parts:

B1: a Computer-Numerically-Controlled (CNC) scoop, suspended over a 5 meter by 2 tray, containing strata of black iron oxide, chalk and soil.

B2: a research project examining a dead Boomtown: Butte, Montana - examining fantasy, displacement, and ecological devastation.

For Marx, cities in the modern sense were made possible by the mass displacement, and mass dispossession. The ‘Okies’ of The Grapes of Wrath were also the shack-dwellers of America’s Hoovervilles, and the ‘docile bodies’ of the workhouses were also the vagrants that haunted the English countryside.

The plantation form, established by this process of ‘primitive accumulation’, transformed the landscape from a home, to a space for resource extraction. In turn, the ever expanding scope of resource extraction has created a new geography. The lunar landscapes produced by mining, the barren moors formed by grazing, the blocked and silted rivers, colossal algal blooms and poisoned waters, deserts and dustbowls - in short, the Anthropocene.

In this history, the tractor appeared as a nightmarish figure, the machine that could do the work of a hundred, seen in the distance, pulling down the houses of those ‘starved out’, carrying in its clattering engine the germ of an abandoned, empty land, ultimately a desert.

B1 is intended as a kind of anti-landscape, responding both to the problem of automation, and a linked set of ideas about the relation of machines and time. The materials are intended to evoke both the ‘black blizzards’ of rural Montana, and the ‘Pulverizations’ of Robert Smithson.

B2 is a set of research materials collected in the course of developing B1, loosely grouped under the subheadings:

An Empty Space:

a set of texts responding to Negri and Hardt’s conception of the American frontier, outlined in Empire.


accounts of Montana as an ecosystem in collapse

9600 baud:

collated material on CNC in relation to mechanized time, and its malcontents.

and Prehistory:

a critical reading of Robert Smithson’s A Sedimentation of the Mind, in the context of Quentin Melliasoux’s treatement of the ‘arche-fossil’ in After Finitude.

Boomtown is intended more as the presentation of a set of doubts, than as a collection of theses. The CNC, like the tractor before it, is an inherently doubtful object, containing both the seed of a freedom from the grind of labour, and a real existence as a facet of capitalist triangulation. Its utopian potential is bracketed by the enforced utopian thinking of the american dream, where the ‘fortune seekers’ of the boomtown appear as a starving band, driven from their farms by debt, and ecological collapse. Most of all, the work is intended to place our current situation in the longue durée of capitalism, towards a general notion of displacement in four centuries of universal diaspora.