SPLASH and BURN: Art Activism Holding Polluters to Account, Malaysia 2023

After 7 years of activist art campaigns in South East Asia, Splash and Burn, together with Greenpeace Malaysia and Studio Birthplace hold polluters to account in protecting our right to clean air with legislative change.

Five interventions have been executed by Splash and Burn artists over the past year including Ernest Zacharevic, political activist Fahmi Reza, street artist and illustrator Cloakwork and the collective Pangrok Sulap. The works supports a focused Malaysia-centric campaign to implement new laws protecting citizens right to clean air.

The first intervention of the series coincided with World Environment Day, Sunday, 5 June 2022, and was by Lithuanian Artist Ernest Zacharevic titled ‘Transboundary Haze’, in Kuala Lumpur, urging those in authority to hold polluters accountable for clean air as a basic human right. Read more here.

Experimentation lies at the heart of Ernest “ZACH” Zacharevic style, with the only constant being the dedication to his ever-changing concepts, often evolving as part of a spontaneous response to the immediate environment, the community and culture. As seen in his differing pieces for the series…

Political activist Fahmi Reza is best known for depicting Malaysia’s then Prime Minister, Najib Razak, as a clown. He has frequently been banned from addressing students at the University of Malaya, on the subject of student activism. His activities have attracted the attention of media overseas, including The New York Times, VICE magazine and Le Figaro.

Cloakwork remains committed to using art as a means of connecting with people and bringing joy and positivity into their lives. The image is playful while protesting citizens right to clean air.

Collective Pangrok Sulap are on a mission to empower rural communities and the marginalised through art. “Pangrok” is the local pronunciation of “punk rock”, and “Sulap” is a hut or a resting place usually used by farmers in Sabah, Borneo. Work often captures light hearted moments of human interaction, as well as exploring more hard hitting content such as human rights, political corruption and environmental exploitation.

After a year-long campaign of art and activism on the streets, #hazestories culminated in an exhibition curated by Ernest Zacharevic in Kuala Lumpur at REXKL. Over 2 weeks, “Haze: Coming Soon” welcomed over 6000 people in 10 days, collecting over 2000 signatures on our petition to demand accountability from major polluters. This petition will be presented at the ASEAN transboundary haze meeting in Singapore next month.

The exhibition hosted artists filmmakers and activists all hosting educational and creative workshops. Greenpeace also supported a series of panel discussions, moderated by Environmental activist Melissa Tan, uniting creatives and enviromentalists to discuss the economic, social and environmental complexities around the haze.

“We want to encourage conversation and creative intervention to inspire action. Talking with a friend or family member or posting on socials is better than silence, we want to keep the issue present so that those responsible are held to account.” 

Ernest Zcharevic

The exhibition featured the film premiere of “Haze-zilla”, a satirical short film from Studio Birthplace addressing corporate greed and environmental destruction.

“We hope this film will serve as a catalyst for change, inspiring viewers to speak up and demand a more sustainable future.” 

Studio Birthplace

Following a landmark complaint from Greenpeace with the Human Rights commission in December 2021 the project seeks legislative change through the enactment of a Transboundary Haze Pollution Act, or Clean Air Act to hold polluters to account. The issue is now with experts pending a review that will issue new policy recommendations to the Malaysian Government

“Instead of blaming our neighbours, let’s focus on what we can do on our own turf here in Malaysia.” said Heng, Greenpeace Malaysia’s lead campaigner. “We need a Transboundary Haze Pollution Act so that it can provide legal grounds to institutionalise checks and balances to ensure that Malaysian companies are not contributing to haze locally and abroad”.

In 2021, the United Nations declared that clean air would be considered a basic human right, each year in Malaysia this right is violated by big business, with no legal pathways or solutions to hold polluters to account.

YOU can also support by signing the petition here

Photo credit Annice Lyn 



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