Our Ancient Forests
October 30 – November 22, 2020

Online Dialogues: Friday November 13, Saturday November 14.

In collaboration with The Only Animal, the Living Forest Institute and Elphinstone Logging Focus.

Cease Wyss, Damien Gillis, Ross Muirhead, Shel Neufeld, Robert Studer, Terra Long, Noé Rodriguez, Nita Bowerman, M. Simon Levin, Sophia Dagher, The Wild Empathy Project, Mark Benson, Shy Georgeson, Derek Georgeson

What role does art have in saving our ancient forests? How can artistic practice transform how we collectively understand the irreplaceable value of the last stands of ancient forests that remain, not just on the Sunshine Coast, but throughout British Columbia. These were the prompts shared to a group of artists who, in August of this year were invited into an area known at the Dakota Bear Sanctuary (The Sanctuary) in the Dakota Valley. This forty-six-hectare area was slated to be auctioned for timber as part of BC Timber Sales Block A87126. Within the unceded Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish) territory, there are many compelling reasons to save it from logging:

Home to some of the oldest trees (1800+ Years) in Canada, this mountain sanctuary ancient forest is a ‘time capsule’ of natural and cultural features. It contains hundreds of red and yellow cedar trees that could qualify as “Coastal Legacy Trees” and “Monumental Trees” considering their age, size and cultural significance. The area is also known to have a high density of active black bear den sites, and numerous Culturally Modified trees, some dated to the 16thcentury. In September BCTS announced the temporary suspension of the sale while it reviews its approach to cutting old and ancient forests.

The Sanctuary is a site that is both real, as well as a symbol of a much larger question – what will it take to simply stop any logging of these important places? What do we need to transform our understandings of the immense social, cultural, historical and ecological values of these environments? It is too easy to assume that the suspension of the cut-block is a result of a shift in how we assess the value of our ancient forests. It is much more likely a result of political and economic forces.

How can artists tell the stories about the release of carbon sequestered in the trees and ground, the elimination of rare and fragile ecosystems and plants that no longer exist in second and third growth forests, the destruction of active bear habitats, the cutting of trees two millennia old and the elimination of cultural forms that date back to the same time as the late renaissance in Europe. And these are to name just a handful.

It is from these urgent considerations that this exhibition emerges. The works included are as diverse as any attempt to capture the complexities of the ancient forest itself – they give you a sense of the infinite stories and images that can emerge. But they are also prompted by an effort to encourage involvement in citizen action. How can artists make a critical and joyful mess about these important matters by staying with the trouble and generating joy, terror, and collective thinking? How can artistic language open up new ways of creating meaning within the context of an urgent climate crisis? And in the specific, how can art and creativity contribute towards the need to protect this area from logging?

We hope the exhibition will connect with Coast residents and visitors and inform them about the unbounded losses we face with the logging of these environments. For us the exhibition is a means of opening up a series of conversations – about the values of these ancient places and the terrible consequences of their loss. Ancient forests are irreplaceable environments, and artists are best prepared to give voice and visibility to this.

The Wild Empathy Project is: Julie Andreyev, Maria Lantin, Damien Gillis (concept and art direction); Simon Overstall (sound recording and composition); Edward Madojemu (animation); Olivier Leroux (cinematographer); Sean Arden, Arian Jacobs and Alonso Benavente Fortes (post-production). Supported by: Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, Emily Carr University of Art + Design, Basically Good Media Lab, ECU

The Only Animal | theonlyanimal.com
Living Forest Institute | livingforestinstitute.ca
Elphinstone Logging Focus | loggingfocus.org