Splash and Burn is an Artist led initiative using creativity to encourage a wider conversation on unsustainable Palm Oil and the adverse affects this has on the Forests and dwindling wildlife population of South East Asia
The Project was curated by Ernest Zacharevic, a Lithuanian artist best known for his public works in Georgetown Penang. At his invitation, a number of artists; both local and international have been showing support by donating their time and creativity to the active field campaign, unfolding creative happenings on walls and in public spaces across the urban and rural landscapes of Indonesia.
In 2015, the specifics began to take root when a Guardian news article claimed 500,000 people suffered respiratory infections as a direct result of the toxic smoke released during slash and burn, the quickest and cheapest way to clear the land for new plantations in Indonesia. A staggering statistic and yet relatively little exposure. Having spent much time in the region photographing, travelling and painting; Ernest began researching the issues independently. After discovering very little about the cause and affect, the next 2 years were made up of several visits to Sumatra personally in an effort to educate himself on the issues. During that time he consulted with experts in the field, active NGOs, members of the community and visited rehabilitation sites for wildlife.
After a year of planning and a limited edition print sale which produced the funds necessary to get started; Ernest and a curated selection of artists flew to Medan to meet with the Orangutan Information Centre where they would each be briefed on the adverse affects of unsustainable palm oil production. After learning more about the issues and spending time with the local communities, the artists set about responding creatively in the urban landscape, producing their visual commentary to the on going debate through paint, sculpture and installation.
Helen Buckland of the Sumatran Orangutan Society said of the project;
We've had an overwhelming positive reaction from people in the landscapes where the Splash and Burn installations have appeared. These are the people who are most severely affected by the choking haze from forest fires, from flooding and drought when the fragile balance of the ecosystem is destroyed by forest clearance. We've seen that art can start conversations, and inspire a desire to be part of the solution. It's a powerful tool.
The canvas for Ernests latest intervention was an oil palm plantation. Working across approximately 20 hectares he carved a giant distress call into the landscape by selectively removing oil palms to spell out the letters SOS.
Ernest Zacharevic said of the project;
I have had the ambition of creating a Land Art piece since the beginning of the Splash and Burn campaign. I wanted to communicate the magnitude of the problem to a wider audience as well as provide creative outlook, hope, and inspiration to local communities and conservationists. From the ground, you would not suspect anything more than just another palm oil plantation, the aerial view however reveals an SOS distress signal. ‘Save Our Souls’ is a message communicated to those at a distance, a reminder of the connectedness we share with nature. As more of the forests are lost, we lose a little bit of ourselves in the process
Indonesia is the worlds largest exporter of Palm Oil. The commodity has long been a controversial issue, receiving much media attention in peak moments of crisis but very little in the months between the burning seasons. With global consumption increasing beyond the need to conserve our impact on our environment and communities, Ernest aims to introduce a new perspective to the conversation on unsustainable Palm Oil. Using art as a tool, he suggests bridging the gap between the corruption surrounding the industry and the wider consciousness of the global consumer.
As the political debate escalates due to recent EU policy restrictions, now more than ever we need to be informed on the issues, encouraging steps towards why sustainability is and should be a common goal.
Splash and Burn is a project curated by Ernest Zacharevic and Coordinated by Charlotte Pyatt it serves as an awareness campaign for the efforts of the Sumatran Orangutan Society and the Orangutan Information Centre.
Participating Artists to date
Project Curator and participating artist Ernest Zacharevic (Lithuanian )
@Ernestzacharevic | http://www.ernestzacharevic.com
Mark Jenkins (U.S.A)
Pixel Pancho (Italy)
Isaac Cordal (Spain)
Gabriel Pitcher (U.K.)