Ghosts of the Salish Sea

 
 
 

The summer of 2019 saw grim and repeated news of our impacts on the nonhuman kin with whom we share the Salish Sea and surrounding ecosystem.

Thousands of grey whales starved during their migration and washed ashore all along the west coast.

Three of the 76 living Southern Resident Orcas perished.

Many salmon runs saw huge crashes of the numbers of individuals returning.

The climate crisis continues to disrupt life cycles throughout the northwest.

How can visual artists help to overcome apathy about the well-being of other species? We hear more and more about the accelerating extinctions of plants and animals which we humans are responsible for, and coming to terms with the grief and fear that attend these losses is a monumental challenge. With one million species now at risk of extinction, can a focus on the plants and animals we share our local home with provide a pathway to contemplating our impacts? We have learned in recent years that simply providing facts and statistics about environmental issues is not enough to motivate change, and this project aims to use art to foster a sense of deep connectedness with the nonhuman kin who share our landscape with us. As artist Todd McGrain has said, art “can touch each of us in a way that ideas and intellect alone cannot. At their highest levels, the performing arts and the visual arts have the power to ignite an awareness of deep connectedness”.

This ongoing project, ‘Ghosts of Extinction Yet to Come’, draws from a long history of using public art, especially lantern and light festivals, to bring communities together to inspire collective action, contemplation, and conversation. For example, the River Clyde Pageant in New Glasgow, Prince Edward Island, evokes discussion and generates community by creating a “celebratory and inspirational rather than didactic or polemical” way to consider our environmental impacts.

‘Ghosts of the Salish Sea’, which includes orca, grey whale, salmon, seal, humpback whale, and more, has been installed at Northwind Art Center and the Wooden Boat Festival, both in September 2019. I hope to expand this installation moving forward - if you have any questions or inquiries - send me an email - kristian.a.brevik@gmail.com.