An Art Ruckus

Extraction: Art on the Edge of the Abyss

Exhibit D: Aftermath

Drawings by Mariam Aziza Stephan

On view August 26 – October 4, 2021

No.3 Reading Room & Photo Book Works is open by-appointment only. Please contact for information.

EXTRACTION: Art on the Edge of the Abyss is a multimedia, multi-venue, cross-border art intervention which seeks to provoke societal change by exposing and interrogating the negative social and environmental consequences of industrialized natural resource extraction. A global coalition of artists and creators committed to shining a light on all forms of extractive industry—from mining and drilling to the reckless plundering and exploitation of fresh water, fertile soil, timber, marine life, and innumerable other resources across the globe—the Extraction Project will culminate in a constellation of nearly fifty overlapping exhibitions, performances, installations, site-specific work, land art, street art, publications, poetry readings, and cross-media events throughout 2021 and beyond. Visit for more information.

No.3 Reading Room & Photo Book Works is participating as a venue in this “ruckus” by presenting projects by several artists working to shine this light through photography, printmaking, publications, installation, video and painting throughout summer and fall, 2021. From August 26 – October 4, re-scaled reproductions of Mariam Aziza Stephan’s original drawings will be on display in the reading room’s storefront windows as an outdoor exhibit.

On view are four works-on-paper selected from the larger body of this work. The originals are small, intimate 6 x 18″ India ink drawings on paper that has been cut open and reassembled with additions and deletions, like the sacrifice zones they represent.

Darkened skies, shadowed craters in the ground, piles of rubble, pockmarked walls, bridges with railings turned into roadblocks, houses with the walls sheared off, boulders that block paths, slabs of broken concrete, rising dark water filled with floating debris, felled trees and sinkholes. The landscape itself is the threat. These works convey the chaos that war and environmental disaster brings to a place.

As we look around we wonder, where is this, what happened here, why? The once occupied landscape is a no-go zone. Streets are passageways that must be negotiated and scrutinized for dangers both underfoot and overhead, for hidden traps or threats. Water has become fouled and dangerous, air has become rank, mingled with particles of soil and poison. Hostile territory, a ravaged landscape– the disasters of war, environmental degradation and man-made zones ravaged for resources then abandoned. Where did everyone go? And despite the fact that these are unspecified sites, today as I installed this work, terrorist bombings further scarred the land and people in Mariam’s ancestral home of Afghanistan. Her series, long in production and planned for installation over a year ago, could not be more current, or relevant, or personal– yet tragically universal. –PMR

For more on Mariam Stephan’s series and her collaboration with the poet Julia Johnson, please see the post from September 10, 2019: and at


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Of her work, Mariam states:

During a pivotal trip to Egypt in 2002, I found a landscape that both informed and provided a framework for my work in both a tangible and conceptual way. In the Siwa Oasis in the Western Desert, I experienced the ground as a shifting, undulating surface. The sand was alive: it swallowed histories; it ached in its agelessness; it pooled like milk. It scratched and clawed and eroded and sank and etched buildings. The sands of this unrelenting desert stretched and yawned innocently like a resting baby and rocked like ocean currents.  It became the ground and the air; as ground, it simultaneously appeared solid and fluid. This landscape gave me a visual and tactile language to work with. By envisioning land and water as powerful and brave characters that endure plundering, exploitation, and neglect, I can explore the raw and stark echoes of what remains and struggles to survive.

My works are of the aftermath. Battered casualties memorializing the ground around us as reminders of our collective loss. Sir Simon Schama argued that landscapes are culture before they are nature. Landscapes reflect what we value or squander; the places I construct explore this state of psychological, political, and environmental upheaval. They do not represent a single place rather an aggregate of no-go zones and those moving in that direction. The sense of loss, polarization, and fracturing that I have attempted to construct in these images is meant to simultaneously reflect upon and memorialize the time we live in and recognize our shared accountability to the land around us.  –MS



Also available for viewing and purchase is the Extraction project’s Megazine exhibition guide that includes writing and artwork by participating artists and organizations serving as sites for this global art ruckus.

Please contact photobookworks@gmail to order.


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