Doug Gillen Writes: Ernest Zacharevic Is Sending An “SOS”

SOS ! The Earth is increasingly sending out this message. And increasingly artists are answering the call As we near the end of 2018 we feel indebted to Street Artist / fine artist/ activist Ernest Zacharevic for what has been one of the most impactful and important art projects to raise awareness for other inhabitants of the planet. Here in Sumatra he raises awareness and proposes exact actions to protect the Sumatran Orangutan and the environment.

Today we sincerely thank filmmaker Doug Gillen, better known as the funny, entertaining and informative founder of FifthWall TV, who illustrates with his words the aerial image of Mr. Zacharevic’s distress signal:


By Doug Gillen

I often wonder if an artist has ever actually stopped a war by writing “stop wars” on a wall. I don’t have access to any hard empirical evidence to confirm or deny this, but I’ll go out on a limb here and say, probably not. Gauging the impact of art is tricky. All too often well-meaning messages of positivity become lost in the ether of narcissism and capitalist conquests that flood our Instagram news feeds.

Ernest Zacharevic. Splash & Burn. Sumtra, Indonesia. 2018. (photo courtesy of the artist)

Every so often though something pops up, a piece, a project, a stunt and it stops you in your tracks, because you know it’s the real deal. This happened for me back at the start of the year when Ernest Zacharevic came good on his ongoing battle with the Palm Oil industry.

For two years running the Lithuanian artist has been running a festival of sort in Indonesia. For Splash and Burn he invites several artists to the country he now resides in to engage publicly with the theme of palm oil deforestation. The likes of Issac Cordal, Vhils, and Mark Jenkins have all stepped up to the plate but for me the real home run came when Zacharevic revealed he had bought 52hectares of unnatural palm oil plantation to it repopulate it with naturally occurring trees, native to the region. As he tore down the palm oil trees, he carved out a large scale “SOS” into the land in what is one of the most visually captivating and symbolic statements of the year.

It should be said that this project was not done by one person. It was only made possible thanks to groups such as the Sumatran Orangutan Society (SOS), the cosmetic company LUSH and a swath of behind-the-scenes and front line cogs that brought it together.

There are many known problems with the palm oil industry; it’s contribution to climate change, the unregulated black market, the forests are uninhabitable for wildlife, the list goes on. The industry is wreaking havoc on the region, particularly on the island of Sumatra, where Splash and Burn takes place. This was a small, but vital push back but more so, it was an artist coming good on their ethos, taking their vision to the next level to play their role in making the world a better place.

 

 

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