Portuguese artist Alexandre Farto aka Vhils is the latest international artist to join Splash and Burn, a creative initiative using Art as an alternative platform projecting critical ecological issues, curated by Ernest Zacharevic and coordinated by Charlotte Pyatt.
Vhils is the nineth artist to participate in the environmental campaign, which calls attention to the destruction of rainforests in South east Asia. Addressing the effects of the unsustainable production of palm oil both locally and globally, which we covered here, the latest project confronts an issue adjacent to palm oil but central to the destabilisation capitalist expansion can incite, with the consequences for communities, wildlife and our eco systems considered collateral damage.
Vhils contribution focuses on the discovery of a new species of great ape, the Tapanuli orangutan, in Indonesia and a recently approved hydropower dam set to decimate their habitat.
The Tapanuli orangutan (Pongo tapanuliensis) is a species of orangutan, native to South Tapanuli in the island of Sumatra in Indonesia. It was described as a distinct species in early November 2017, when scientists announced the discovery of this new species, but also the most endangered with only 800 left.
Already under extreme pressure, a new threat is on the horizon for the Tapanuli orangutan: the development of a 510MW hydropower dam, financed with overseas investment. The dam is to be constructedin the last primary lowland forest of the Batang Toru Ecosystem. This area has the highest biodiversity of the entireecosystem, as well as the highest densities of Tapanuli orangutans. Despite this, the project has been approved, government permits have been issued and construction of access roads already underway.
North Sumatra Hydro Energy (NSHE), the projects’ investors, and the Indonesian government have a collective opportunity to halt the project in light of this information to troubleshoot alternative sustainable solutions.
“The world is not taking the time to consider how to move forward, there is no effort to reflect on the real impact of decisions. For this project what I really wanted to do, was to give my work in order to bring attention to a situation- to create discussion on an issue. It is the artists who power the the cities we live in – who counterbalance the pressures of different issues by creating Images on walls. You can start a discussion and bring to the public issues that otherwise would not be there.” Vhils
Local NGOs have begun the petition to cease construction and are carrying out peaceful protests in the coming weeks; Splash and Burn initiate the first wave of awareness with artist Vhils. Exposing the issue to a global audience aims to encourage the protection of the Tapanuli orangutan’s habitat.
“It comes down to activists and artists to raise awareness for the tensions that globalisation creates. That being said I personally think its a new Pandoras box, it’s hard to stop. The only thing we can really do now is act on the dark side of globalisation, which is really the reason we are here doing Splash and Burn.” Vhils
Through a number of unique art projects Splash and Burn offers a creative platform for Organisations and NGOs fighting for positive long term change. Support the campaign here.