June 23 – August 13, 2023

Branching Songs

Julie Andreyev, Simon Lysander Overstall, Giorgio Magnanensi, Lara Felsing, M. Simon Levin, Emma Pallay, Keira Madsen, and Myles V Feltenberger

Opening Reception + Public Dialogues: Friday June 23rd at 5pm
Workshops + Soundwalks: Saturday + Sunday June 24th + 25th; Saturday + Sunday August 12th + 13th

Workshop + Soundwalks Poster

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How can we listen to the trees for the sake of the forests?

Branching Songs is an ongoing collaborative project that draws attention to trees and forests in the West Coast region. The team experiments with sound and new media technologies, alongside land-based practices, to create artworks and encounters that aim to build awareness about the critical role trees and forests play in ecosystem health — ecosystems we are part of.

Forests play a crucial part in the region’s natural health and contribute to the health of the planet. They provide the air we breathe, the habitat wildlife need, the weather and water we depend on. However, deforestation from logging, agriculture and development has diminished their capacities and accelerated extreme environmental conditions — floods, mudslides, wildfires and heat domes — for everyone. It’s known that forests have positive effects on mental health and physical well-being, and that people who experience connections with trees and forests are more likely to care for them. For the team, these reasons focus the importance of engaging and mobilizing people as a movement to protect and care for trees and forests.

The Branching Songs goals are to share knowledge about the irreparable destruction of clear cut logging and deforestation, and to reconnect people with trees and forests and the wondrous gifts they provide.

To do this, the team has researched and creatively experimented with forests and clear cuts in the coastal region. They’ve created live events within intact forest environments; indoor and outdoor sound art performances with instruments made of cast-offs from trees and birds; outdoor collaborations with trees-as-kin through contact mics, natural materials and interspecies communications; land-based interventions in settler-extracted sites, such as clear-cuts; and generative installations using documentation and creative computing. The artists see their work as collaborative reciprocal action between humans and non-humans, with an aim to draw attention to vital ecosystems supporting the well-being of both. These are local acts, but they also speak to the global urgency to stop deforestation and protect the remaining forests of the Earth.

This exhibition brings together, through documentation and works of art, the culmination of more than two years of research, site-observation, artistic experiments and performance-interventions with specific forest locations on the Sunshine Coast.

The Tuwanek Springs Forest is home to old growth cedar and fir, salal, mosses and diverse wildlife. It provides nesting for Anna’s hummingbirds and Hairy woodpeckers, has active elk trails leading to a year-round natural spring, and is part of the Gray Creek watershed. As told by hiwus Calvin Craigan, Tuwanek was home to a shíshálh clan or family grouping living on the Inlet for thousands of years who would have foraged and hunted in this forest. Despite this, the forest, listed as “AN14” in the Angus Cutblock, is scheduled to be clear cut by BC Timber. The team, in collaboration with Elphinstone Logging Focus, is advocating for the preservation of this forest. The Branching Songs Ensemble held a live performance called Recital With a Forest in Tuwanek Springs Forest on May 20, 2023. Documentation of this performance is part of the generative artwork by the same name in the exhibition.

The Sandy Hook clear-cut near Porpoise Bay, listed as “Private Managed Forest #503”, is a now-decimated land on a shíshálh burial ground. Enormous slash piles — the remnants of clear cut logging — punctuate the landscape which is a tangle of stumps, small trees and other ‘left over’ materials. The occasional old maple tree still stands tall, alive on the land because they’re considered worthless to the timber industry. Despite the stop work order, the damage has been done to the shíshálh Nation and the forest ecosystem. Through the use of photography, LiDAR technology, sound and computation, the team has produced the generative artwork called Clear Cut Chorus in the exhibition as a lament for this land and all clear cuts.

The Ɂiy shenchu (Trout Lake) Conservation Area – 1,182 hectares linking intact forests with restored zones — is anchored by Trout Lake to the west and the Big Tree Rec Site to the east. According to hiwus Calvin Craigan, in the shíshálh Nation’s language Ɂiy shenchu translates as “good hunting grounds”. The Sunshine Coast Community Forest (SCCF) has identified a cutblock (Blk HM70) in the heart of this proposed conservation area despite evidence of historical culturally modified trees and the potential for erosion if cut. The team is planning a healing intervention with land-based materials for the trees in this forest to support the conservation efforts.

The Reed Road Forest Reserve, “District Lot 1313”, is a forest located inland from Gibson’s at the end of Reed Road, in Skwxwu7mesh (Squamish) territory, in Elphinstone (SCRD Area E). It is owned by the Province of B.C. and managed by the B.C. Ministry of Forests (FLNRO). It grew up after the 1904 fire and has been left intact with old Western red cedars and Douglas fir, and a variety of plantlife. The forest provides hydrological activity for the streams, creeks, and wells in the area and has a wonderfully diverse community of animal and plant inhabitants. It is an accessible treasure for the local community, but its protection is still precarious because the ‘reserve’ status does not protect it from logging. This beautiful forest inspired the Branching Songs workshops which aim to join with communities to care for their forest kin.

Through each of these sites, and a variety of encounters and observations, the team enacts a series of listenings and recordings, performances, installations, interventions, and offerings, all towards telling the stories of these incredible places, and the importance of preserving forests for generations to come.

For this exhibition, we would like to thank the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, Emily Carr University, Vancouver New Music, Basically Good Media Lab, Elphinstone Logging Focus, Shumka Centre for Creative Entrepreneurship.

The SCAC would like to thank our generous sponsors who make our ongoing work possible: the SCAC Membership, the District of Sechelt, the BC Arts Council, the SC Community Forest Fund, the Canada Council for the Arts, the Sunshine Coast Foundation and the Sunshine Coast Credit Union.