It’s not the sort of street art you’d expect to find on a swampy patch of degraded forest land on the Indonesian island of Sumatra. But the renowned Lithuanian artist Ernest Zacharevic spent the past 2 years selecting a group of international artists to work on an artistic response to the global palm oil industry.
Scattered across different locations in Sumatra, the project is called Splash and Burn. The title is a play on words for the term “slash and burn”, that is used to describe the cheap method used by farmers to clear land for oil palm plantations.
It was back in late 2015 where tens of thousands of acres of rainforest were engulfed in flames, caused by the slash and burn methods, creating a haze that affected the whole region, which got worse by an El Niño. six provinces declared a state of emergency as hundreds of thousands struggled to breathe the toxic yellow air.
Ernest was in his studio in Penang, Malaysia when thick clouds of smoke traveled all the way from Neighboring Indonesia, covering the city. It is at that time that the artist began to reflect on the palm oil industry and its role in Indonesia, which is the world’s largest producer of palm oil. And this is how Splash and Burn was incepted.
The project was initiated by Ernest Zacharevic together with coordinator Charlotte Pyatt, who throughout the last two years have been actively researching the issue, visiting and scouting locations and connecting with experts and specialists in the field.
The idea, says Ernest, was to use street and public art to start a dialogue and to draw awareness to deforestation, the displacement of wildlife, and other issues connected to the industry.
Each work in the Splash and Burn series was designed to highlight unregulated farming practices in the palm oil industry.
Among the eight artists involved are Britain’s Gabriel Pitcher, who painted the old woman at the window, Norwegian stencil artist StrØk, aka Anders Gjennestad, and the Spanish sculptor Isaac Cordal, whose series of poignant miniatures including a skeleton in a suit. Also involved are Italy’s Pixel Pancho, Malaysian painter Bibichun, and Axel Void, an American-born Spanish artist who is also working on a film exploring the lives of children born on the island’s plantations.
The project was funded by the release of “Splash and Burn”, a limited edition print (Pictured above) which sold generating the full independent funding. Since February, international artists have been generously donating their time and creativity to the cause, arriving in secret to execute works.
Conflict palm oil is a longstanding controversial issue that receives 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 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. Through a number of unique art projects Splash and Burn offers a creative platform for Organisations and NGOs fighting for positive change.
Splash and Burn is an ongoing independent initiative curated by Ernest Zacharevic and coordinated by Charlotte Pyatt, To support the activity visit the Splash and Burn site, www.
Orangutang Information Centre: web | facebook | twitter
Jenkins: web | facebook | instagram
Axel Void: web | facebook | instagram
Pixel Pancho: web | facebook | instagram
Isaac Cordal: web | facebook | instagram
Strøk: web | facebook | instagram
Gabriel Pitcher: web | facebook | instagram
Ernest Zacharevic: web | facebook | instagram
Bibi Chun: instagram