THE LAST STAND: ANCIENT FORESTS, COLLECTIVE ACTION
Fortune gallery, 2021
In March of 2021, the Eden Grove Artist in Residence Program was created to bring artists into one of the last stands of unprotected old growth forests on southern Vancouver Island, on unceded Pacheedaht Territory. The studio was positioned just across the bridge from Eden Camp, one of the many old growth logging blockades that had been established over the past year in the Port Renfrew area. The Rainforest Flying Squad, a non-violent direct action collective, began their first blockade on August 9th, 2020 at the ridge of the Fairy Creek watershed, with the welcome and guidance of Pacheedaht Elder Bill Jones. Their movement has garnered international attention, and with the support of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, a growing number of First Nations in BC are now demanding a ban on old growth logging on their traditional territory. Only 2.7% remains of the original productive old growth forests in BC. These forests are home to ancient cedars over 1000 years old, which provide habitat for endangered species and play an important role in mitigating the effects of climate change. The BC NDP campaigned on a promise to protect old growth forests, but approvals for clearcutting have increased by 43% under their watch.
Resident artists at Eden Grove had the opportunity to be immersed in the ancient forest ecosystem while also bearing witness to the frontlines of the forest protection movement. While advocating for the protection of ancient forests, the artists also used their work in an open way, creating space to ask questions and explore the complexity of interconnected issues from indigenous rights to climate change. As the symbiotic relationship between studio and camp evolved, art practices began to inform blockade tactics, and depictions of camp life entered into the artwork. Some artists took on the role of photojournalists. Many of the activists at camp also came to experience their daily acts of resistance as an art form. As one blockader explained, “Eden Camp; it’s more than a tactic, more than a blockade - it’s an art piece. An installation of determination”.