The ‘presque perdu’ project focuses on wild and traditional fruit trees around the Northern Hemisphere: what they are botanically and how they look; the roles they play in ecosystems, human nutrition, legions of local and cosmopolitan cultures; current and potential relationships with contemporary aesthetics, public spaces, and urban habitat; the divergent communal experiences of these fruit trees in rural Europe and parts of East and South Asia, on one hand, and, the destruction erasure of many of these orchards created and owned by indigenous communities; the roles of fruit trees more broadly in cultural memory; and the difficulties and opportunities of defending and re-establishing these orchards of ecologically strategic pollinators in the wake of climate change, loss of biological diversity, and the spread of toxic compounds.
Le projet «presque perdu» se concentre sur les arbres fruitiers sauvages et traditionnels autour de l’hémisphère nord: ce qu’ils sont botaniquement et à quoi ils ressemblent; les rôles qu’ils jouent dans les écosystèmes, la nutrition humaine, les légions de cultures locales et cosmopolites; les relations actuelles et potentielles avec l’esthétique contemporaine, les espaces publics et l’habitat urbain; les expériences communautaires divergentes de ces arbres fruitiers en Europe rurale et dans certaines parties de l’Asie de l’Est et du Sud, d’une part, et l’effacement par destruction de nombreux vergers créés et possédés par des communautés autochtones; le rôle des arbres fruitiers plus largement dans la mémoire culturelle; et les difficultés et les possibilités de défendre et de rétablir ces vergers de pollinisateurs écologiquement stratégiques à la suite des changements climatiques, de la perte de diversité biologique et de la propagation de composés toxiques.
This multi-media exploration of what is ‘nearly lost’, the <<perdu>>, is rooted in Proust’s quintessentially unreliable narrator along with his love of pear, apple, and hawthorn trees at the peak of the French colonial empire. But while the past, as in ‘lost time’ is gone, these resilient little trees, cultivated or just persisting in less tended and wilder margins of communities, continue to keep the biosphere functioning, bees making honey, and people eating fruit.
Cette exploration multimédia de ce qui est «presque perdu», le «perdu», trouve son origine dans le narrateur par excellence, peu fiable, de Proust, avec son amour de la poire, de la pomme et des aubépines au sommet de l’empire colonial français. Mais alors que le passé, comme dans le «temps perdu» a disparu, ces petits arbres résilients, cultivés ou persistant dans des marges de communautés moins tendues, continuent de faire fonctionner la biosphère, les abeilles fabriquant du miel et les gens mangeant des fruits.
So what has really been lost? In delving into these fruit around the Northern Hemisphere, a great deal of cultural memory is being lost related to fruit trees — especially for indigenous communities in jurisdictions such as British Columbia where well-tended orchards were never recognized by the state and have largely been destroyed. Recovering that world, the agriculture, the visual culture, and the living cultures are a huge part of this ‘presque perdu‘. There is sufficient amount of history and remaining knowledge form elders to re-establish these orchards — and too many legal bases and cultural imperatives not to. And around the world, too many orchards continue to be destroyed or converted to simplified ecosystems doused with poison. And for Proust’s somewhat nostalgic ‘lost time’, fin de siècle and imperial France was a difficult place for most people, notably peasants, workers, and colonial subject, with pear and hawthorn blossoms only small consolations. And is Proust’s melancholy rooted in absence (and sexual repression) largely a foil for inability to engage with the present and solve current problems — almost reducing moments of beauty to small consolations?
Alors qu’est-ce qui a vraiment été perdu? En fouillant dans l’hémisphère nord, on perd beaucoup de mémoire culturelle liée aux arbres fruitiers – en particulier pour les communautés autochtones comme la Colombie-Britannique, où les vergers bien entretenus n’ont jamais été reconnus par l’État. Retrouver ce monde, l’agriculture, la culture visuelle et les cultures vivantes constituent une grande partie de ce «presque perdu». Il y a suffisamment d’histoire et de savoirs anciens pour rétablir ces vergers – et trop de bases juridiques et d’impératifs culturels pour ne pas le faire. Et dans le monde entier, trop de vergers continuent à être détruits ou convertis en écosystèmes simplifiés arrosés de poison. Et pour le «temps perdu» quelque peu nostalgique de Proust, la fin de siècle et la France impériale étaient un lieu difficile pour la plupart des gens, notamment paysans, ouvriers et sujets coloniaux, les fleurs de poirier et d’aubépine n’étant que de petites consolations. Et la mélancolie de Proust s’enracine-t-elle dans l’absence (et la répression sexuelle), en grande partie une impossibilité à s’engager dans le présent et à résoudre les problèmes actuels – réduisant presque les moments de beauté à de petites consolations?
Experiences of loss and ‘near loss’ have not been confined to intensifying disappearance of habitat, species, and wild and traditional fruit trees – or even Proust’s nostalgia for the last vestiges of the Second French Empire and the early days of the La IIIe République. While Proust was ruminating over the shift to modern agricultural landscapes, indigenous communities around the globe were being destroyed. While suffering inequities and losses as a gay man enduring constant anti-semitism, Proust makes scant mention of the ravages of the French state and the chauvinism of Paris and other Western European cultures.
Les expériences de perte et de «quasi-perte» ne se sont pas limitées à l’intensification de la disparition d’habitats, d’espèces et d’arbres fruitiers sauvages et traditionnels – ni même à la nostalgie de Proust pour les derniers vestiges du Second Empire et des premiers temps de la IIIe République. Alors que Proust réfléchissait au passage aux paysages agricoles modernes, les communautés autochtones du monde entier étaient détruites. Tout en souffrant d’inégalités et de pertes en tant qu’homosexuel subissant un antisémitisme constant, Proust ne mentionne guère les ravages de l’État français et le chauvinisme de Paris et des autres cultures de l’Europe occidentale.
Today, there are new losses on the horizon especially from climate change. And as ecosystems become more vulnerable, we are seeing the swan song of Proust’s consumer aesthetic largely based on the wealth of empires and a century and a half of avoiding manual labour especially work on the land. But the losses to indigenous communities and cultures throughout the world, from population numbers to languages to community memory to persistent constraints on the protection of traditional knowledge and scientific innovation, continue to persist. While today, we are experience a resurgence of indigenous communities and governments, in many parts of the world, I have already seen, personally, three cycles of activism and public interest in Pacific Canada followed by indifference and more sophisticated forms of erasure and exoticization.
Aujourd’hui, il y a de nouvelles pertes à l’horizon, en particulier du changement climatique. Et comme les écosystèmes deviennent plus vulnérables, nous voyons le chant du cygne de l’esthétique du consommateur de Proust largement basé sur la richesse des empires et un siècle et demi d’éviter le travail manuel en particulier le travail sur la terre. Mais les pertes subies par les communautés et les cultures autochtones dans le monde entier, des populations aux langues, à la mémoire de la communauté et aux contraintes persistantes sur la protection des savoirs traditionnels et des innovations scientifiques, persistent. Alors qu’aujourd’hui, nous assistons à une résurgence des communautés autochtones et des gouvernements, dans de nombreuses régions du monde, j’ai déjà vu personnellement trois cycles d’activisme et d’intérêt public dans le Canada du Pacifique suivis par l’indifférence et des formes plus sophistiquées d’effacement et d’exotisation.
At the core of the ‘presque perdu’ project is exploring the loss of indigenous orchards and related horticultural sites, along with respective traditional knowledge, on the West Coast of Canada. As both a public artist and ecological scientist and designer, this loss, and attempts to recover site and knowledge, has had a central bearing on my work. Growing up in a relatively assimilated and middle-class, Métis family, in a majority Salish community, efforts to recover and re-establish land stewardship and cultivation shaped my childhood — as well as having to witness racist violence (including directed at a parent), walking the lines of an Indian Reserve, being exposed to but barely speaking a number of disappearing indigenous language (SENĆOŦEN, Chinook, and a French dialect that was close to Michif), and having inspiring mentoring by elders. But with all of the advantages, the sense of loss, the immensity of what is permanently gone in terms of knowledge and locales, continues to haunt me. And fully understanding the extent of these orchards and their disappearance (and persistence) becomes a sort of cultural murder mystery.
Au cœur du projet «presque perdu», on explore la perte de vergers indigènes et de sites horticoles connexes, ainsi que les connaissances traditionnelles respectives, sur la côte ouest du Canada. En tant qu’artiste public et scientifique et concepteur écologique, cette perte et ces tentatives de récupération de sites et de connaissances ont eu une influence déterminante sur mon travail. Ayant grandi dans une famille métisse relativement assimilée et appartenant à la classe moyenne, dans une communauté salish majoritaire, les efforts pour retrouver et rétablir la gestion et la culture des terres ont façonné mon enfance et ont été témoins de violence raciste ), marchant dans les limites d’une réserve indienne, s’exposant mais parlant à peine un certain nombre de langues indigènes en voie de disparition (SENĆOŦEN, Chinook et un dialecte français proche du Michif) et bénéficiant d’un mentorat inspirant des aînés. Mais avec tous les avantages, le sentiment de perte, l’immensité de ce qui a disparu en permanence en termes de connaissances et de lieux continuent de me hanter. Et comprendre pleinement l’étendue de ces vergers et leur disparition (et leur persistance) devient une sorte de mystère de meurtre culturel.
But unpacking losses and participating in the more profound forms of cultural resurgence is not linear and certainly not assured. Art can sometimes be a playful space to deal with painful topics. Breaking down lines between media and between indigenous and contemporary aesthetic movements can be fun. And so much of deeper forms of loss, in Western and not necessarily indigenous, culture has been tied to notions of an Apocalypse. But for indigenous communities, and artists, the Apocalypse has happened over the last five hundred years and even with a future of intensifying climate change, loss of biodiversity, and chaotic forms of globalization, things cannot get much worse than what our communities have survived. So while indigenous resurgence and state tolerance may wax and wane, ancient communities and cultural traditions deeply rooted in the local and the land will survive and sometimes recover. And aesthetic gestures can be one route to reimagine what was nearly but was not completely lost.
Mais déballer les pertes et participer aux formes plus profondes de résurgence culturelle n’est pas linéaire et certainement pas assuré. L’art peut parfois être un espace ludique pour traiter des sujets douloureux. Briser les lignes entre les médias et entre les mouvements esthétiques autochtones et contemporains peut être amusant. Et tant de formes plus profondes de perte, dans la culture occidentale et pas nécessairement indigène, ont été liées aux notions d’Apocalypse. Mais pour les communautés autochtones et les artistes, l’Apocalypse s’est produite au cours des cinq cents dernières années et même avec un avenir d’intensification du changement climatique, de perte de biodiversité et de formes chaotiques de la mondialisation, ainsi, alors que la résurgence des populations indigènes et la tolérance de l’État peuvent croître et disparaître, les anciennes communautés et les traditions culturelles profondément enracinées dans la région et la terre vont survivre et parfois se rétablir. Et les gestes esthétiques peuvent être un moyen de réinventer ce qui était presque mais n’a pas été complètement perdu.
There is a cleavage explored in the ‘presque perdu’ between the horrific losses of indigenous communities, from populations to knowledge to options for relaxation, on one hand, and the precarious near future where little fruit trees may make a huge difference around urban liveability and the survival of local ecosystems as well as food production for human health. So many orchards were effectively destroyed in the twentieth century and so much of what we love is threatened in these times. But these little trees, these ‘heavy lifters’ in the worlds of ecosystems, diet, and aesthetics, in deed human experience, show no signs of disappearing. And these little trees give us fruit as existential gifts, that even with the stresses and crises of which we are increasingly confronted, show few signs of being entirely. What has been ‘nearly lost’ are these wild hedges, the traditional knowledge, the sense of rights to these ecosystems as part of healthy communities, and the quiet moments to enjoy some unowned, feral fruit from a roadside, and those random moments to enjoy the apple blossoms drift by. But this project show how these beautiful trees and nourishing fruit can transform the world.
Il y a un clivage exploré dans le «presque perdu» entre les pertes terribles des communautés autochtones, des populations aux connaissances en passant par les options de détente, et l’avenir proche précaire où les petits arbres fruitiers peuvent faire une énorme différence la survie des écosystèmes locaux ainsi que la production alimentaire pour la santé humaine. Tant de vergers ont été effectivement détruits au XXe siècle et une grande partie de ce que nous aimons est menacée à cette époque. Mais ces petits arbres, ces «gros porteurs» dans les mondes des écosystèmes, de l’alimentation et de l’esthétique, dans l’expérience humaine, ne montrent aucun signe de disparition. Et ces petits arbres nous donnent des fruits en tant que dons existentiels qui, même avec les tensions et les crises auxquelles nous sommes de plus en plus confrontés, montrent peu de signes d’être totalement. Ce qui a été «presque perdu», ce sont les haies sauvages, le savoir traditionnel, le sens des droits sur ces écosystèmes dans le cadre de communautés saines et les moments tranquilles pour profiter de fruits sauvages et sans propriétaire sur la route. les fleurs de pommiers dérivent. Mais ce projet montre comment ces beaux arbres et ces fruits nourrissants peuvent transformer le monde.
 So far, I have been working with the following English-language translations of the six volumes of À la recherche du temps perdu: Marcel Proust. (1913) 2002. Swann’s Way. (Lydia Davis translation). New York: Penguin.; Marcel Proust. 2003 (1993, 1919) Within A Budding Grove. (In Search of Lost Time Volume II). (C. K. Scott Moncrieff, Terence Kilmartin, and D. J. Enright translators). New York: Random House / Modern Library.; Marcel Proust. 2003 (1992, 1921). The Guermantes Way. (In Search of Lost Time Volume III). (C. K. Scott Moncrieff, Terence Kilmartin, and D. J. Enright translators). New York: Random House / Modern Library.; and Marcel Proust. 2003 (1993, 1922). Sodom and Gomorrah (In Search of Lost Time Volume IV). (C. K. Scott Moncrieff, Terence Kilmartin, and D. J. Enright translators). New York: Random House / Modern Library.
 Jusqu’à présent, j’ai travaillé avec les traductions anglaises suivantes des six volumes de À la recherche du temps perdu: Marcel Proust. (1913) 2002. Swann’s Way. (Lydia Davis translation). New York: Penguin.; Marcel Proust. 2003 (1993, 1919). Within A Budding Grove. (In Search of Lost Time Volume II). (C. K. Scott Moncrieff, Terence Kilmartin, and D. J. Enright translators). New York: Random House / Modern Library.; Marcel Proust. 2003 (1992, 1921). The Guermantes Way. (In Search of Lost Time Volume III). (C. K. Scott Moncrieff, Terence Kilmartin, and D. J. Enright translators). New York: Random House / Modern Library.; et Marcel Proust. 2003 (1993, 1922). Sodom and Gomorrah (In Search of Lost Time Volume IV). (C. K. Scott Moncrieff, Terence Kilmartin, and D. J. Enright translators). New York: Random House / Modern Library.
 The best introduction to the suppression of indigenous orchards in north-western North America, is in the anthology, Douglas Deur and Nancy J. Turner (eds). 2005. Keeping It Living: Traditions of Plant Use and Cultivation on the Northwest Coast of North America. Vancouver: UBC Press / Seattle: University of Seattle Press, with a wonderful, recent example of confirming and recovering these sites and respective knowledge, Wyllie de Echeverria, Victoria. 2013. Moolks (Pacific crabapple, Malus fusca) on the North Coast of British Columbia: Knowledge and meaning in Gitga’at Culture. MSc thesis University of Victoria, Victoria, British Columbia. https://dspace.library.uvic.ca/handle/1828/4596.
 La meilleure introduction à la suppression des vergers indigènes du nord-ouest de l’Amérique du Nord se trouve dans l’anthologie, Douglas Deur and Nancy J. Turner (eds). 2005. Keeping It Living: Traditions of Plant Use and Cultivation on the Northwest Coast of North America. Vancouver: UBC Press / Seattle: University of Seattle Press, avec un merveilleux exemple récent de confirmation et de récupération de ces sites et de leurs connaissances respectives, Wyllie de Echeverria, Victoria. 2013. Moolks (Pacific crabapple, Malus fusca) on the North Coast of British Columbia: Knowledge and meaning in Gitga’at Culture. MSc thesis University of Victoria, Victoria, British Columbia. https://dspace.library.uvic.ca/handle/1828/4596.
 One example of indigenous resurgence theorizing, particularly relevant to north-western North America, is the highly influential, Leanne Betasamosake Simpson. 2017. As We Have Always Done: Indigenous Freedom through Radical Resistance. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, where she argues that, “We cannot carry out the kind of decolonization our Ancestors set in motion if we don’t create a generation of land-based, community-based intellectuals and cultural producers who are accountable to our nations and whose life work is concerned with the regeneration of these systems rather than meeting the overwhelming needs of the Western academic complex or attempting to ‘Indigenize the academy’ by bringing Indigenous Knowledge into the academy on the terms of the academy itself…The land must again become the pedagogy.” (pages 159-160).
 Un exemple de la théorisation de la résurgence indigène, particulièrement pertinente pour le nord-ouest de l’Amérique du Nord, est la très influente, Leanne Betasamosake Simpson. 2017. As We Have Always Done: Indigenous Freedom through Radical Resistance. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, où elle soutient que, “We cannot carry out the kind of decolonization our Ancestors set in motion if we don’t create a generation of land-based, community-based intellectuals and cultural producers who are accountable to our nations and whose life work is concerned with the regeneration of these systems rather than meeting the overwhelming needs of the Western academic complex or attempting to ‘Indigenize the academy’ by bringing Indigenous Knowledge into the academy on the terms of the academy itself…The land must again become the pedagogy.” (fiches 159-160).
 While growing in a community engaged in a mid-twentieth century form of ‘indigenous modernism’, focused on the re-establishment of large outdoor works (and on-going production) in public space, the work in this project has been influenced by an arc going back to early land art with, Dennis Oppenheim’s 1969, “Directed Seeding – Cancelled crop” installed in the Netherlands (https://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/oppenheim-directed-seeding-cancelled-crop-t12402); Alan Sonfist’s 1978, “Time Landscape”; and Joseph Beuys’ 1982, “7000 Eichen – Stadtverwaldung statt Stadtverwaltung / 7000 Oaks – City Forestation Instead of City Administration.” And more recently, Omaskêko Cree conceptualist, Duane Linklater and Ron Benner have made site-based works acknowledging indigenous presence, cultivation, and ‘gardens’.
 For an example of contemporary, multimedia artistic practices that engage in science as research and as aesthetics, see the following discussion of a garden of the late Helen Harrison and Newton Harrison, Jonathon Keats. 2018. Eco-Art Or Science? Helen And Newton Harrison Are Sculpting Earth Systems To Endure Climate Change. Forbes (August 21, 2018). https://www.forbes.com/sites/jonathonkeats/2018/08/21/helen-newton-harrison-santa-cruz/#3e4f77207214
 En grandissant dans une communauté engagée dans une forme de «modernisme indigène» du milieu du vingtième siècle, axée sur le rétablissement de grandes œuvres de plein air (et de la production en cours) dans l’espace public, le travail dans ce projet a été influencé par un arc retourner à landart avec, Dennis Oppenheim, 1969, “Directed Seeding – Cancelled crop” installé aux Pays-Bas (https://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/oppenheim-directed-seeding-cancelled-crop-t12402); Alan Sonfist 1978, “Time Landscape”; and Joseph Beuys 1982; et Joseph Beuys 1982, “7000 Eichen – Stadtverwaldung statt Stadtverwaltung / 7000 Oaks – City Forestation Instead of City Administration.” Et plus récemment, Cree Omaskêko conceptualiste, Duane Linklater et Ron Benner ont réalisé des travaux sur site reconnaissant la présence, la culture et les «jardins» autochtones.
 Pour un exemple de pratiques artistiques contemporaines et multimédias qui se livrent à la science en tant que recherche et en tant qu’esthétique, voir la discussion suivante sur un jardin de feu Helen Harrison et Newton Harrison, Jonathon Keats. 2018. Eco-Art Or Science? Helen And Newton Harrison Are Sculpting Earth Systems To Endure Climate Change. Forbes (August 21, 2018). https://www.forbes.com/sites/jonathonkeats/2018/08/21/helen-newton-harrison-santa-cruz/#3e4f77207214
 A recent essay by Matias Viegner on the constraints on multimedia artistic production in the context of neoliberalism:
Matias Viegener. 2015. Speculative Futures: Social practice, cognitive capitalism and / or the triumph of capital. in Informal Market Worlds: The Architecture of Economic Pressure. Peter Mörtenböeck and Helge Mooshammer (eds.). Rotterdam: nai010. http://mviegener.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/Viegener-Matias-Speculative-Futures-Social-Practice-Cognitive-Capitalism-andor-the-Triumph-of-Capital.pdf
 Un récent essai de Matias Viegner sur les contraintes de la production artistique multimédia dans le contexte du néolibéralisme: Matias Viegener. 2015. Speculative Futures: Social practice, cognitive capitalism and / or the triumph of capital. in Informal Market Worlds: The Architecture of Economic Pressure. Peter Mörtenböeck and Helge Mooshammer (eds.). Rotterdam: nai010. http://mviegener.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/Viegener-Matias-Speculative-Futures-Social-Practice-Cognitive-Capitalism-andor-the-Triumph-of-Capital.pdf
Support for this ongoing project, including documentation posted on this web-installation, came from the Canada Council for the Arts in 2015 and 2017.
L’appui à ce projet en cours, y compris la documentation affichée sur cette installation Internet, est venu du Conseil des arts du Canada en 2015 et en 2017.
The 2014 – 2016 studies, designs and interventions that comprise À la recherche de certaines récoltes presque perdu: Decolonising permaculture: The greatest adversity comes from forgetting are in response to Utopiana’s call for the thematic residency, La Bête et l’adversité. We explore one ‘beast’ in nature: human memory and the ways that biology, culture and our individual developments mediate what we know of landscapes and how we interact and sometimes transform public spaces. In this context, we explore divergent experiences of the postcolonial world: the Geneva region that was not colonized and has had an uneven relationship with the imperial and modernist projects and the still decolonising Salish Sea region of the South Coast of Pacific Canada and adjacent Puget Sound in the United States of America.
Within these landscapes, we explore and imagine reinserting dwindling populations of wild and traditional tree crops, in the gene pools of
apple and pear,
plum and cherry,
raspberry and blackberry, and
blueberry and cranberry.
Tree fruit in this project also becomes a focus for exploring ecological and cultural legacies and ‘gifts’ within ecosystems with renewed interest in philosophies of gratitude so central to indigenous cultures in the Western Hemisphere. The divergent indigenous cultures of these gene pools, that span both the Geneva and the Vancouver-Seattle regions across Europe, Asia, and north-western North America are reconnoitered. In this way, we critique and begin to decolonise popular and sometimes trite notions of ‘permaculture’, a set of principles and practices for diverse and more sustainable agro-ecosystems by re-centring the roles of traditional knowledge and learning from and respecting local gene pools (and associated human populations).
Initiating our investigations of forgetting, memory and remembrance as an often irascible beast within nature (and human lives), the contributions of Proust, and in particular his now waning modernist notions of the individual, landscape, and desire codified in À la recherche de certaines récoltes presque perdu comprise a key source for understanding the legacies of the colonial projects within Europe and in margins such as Pacific Canada. In understanding this broader loss of memory and ecosystem under modernism and individuals, we construct another aspect of the emerging movement of decolonial aesthetic specifically departing from and ‘rifting’ with Proustian nostalgia. A century ago, Proust’s modernist aesthetics largely obscured labour, ecology, and political economy from experiences of landscapes, agriculture, and indigenous and traditional communities. Today, contemporary aesthetics are back to more fully appreciating cultural legacies in nature as well as the crucial role of traditional knowledge and communities and material relationships more generally.
Our endgame, in À la recherche de certaines récoltes presque perdu: Decolonising permaculture: The greatest adversity comes from forgetting, is to propose and begin to demonstrate some interventions in public space that re-establish small groves of these often declining tree crops. As beneficiaries of the tree planting legacies of artists Joseph Beuys and Alan Sonfist, we argue that agriculture and horticulture embody practices central to the collaborative and community-based impulses in contemporary art. In this work, we are also strongly influenced by the relational aesthetics proposed over a decade ago, that are more concerned with social learning than production of static art objects, and more recent forms of radical materialism centred on cultural cognition of threats to the biosphere and human life support and that in turn challenge to intensifying social inequities.
Just as important as generating a beneficial ecological impact through nurturing traditional local gene pools, habitats and communities, we make ‘installations’ and archives with what we can find from recycled paper and ink to digital photographs, videos and text made with old computers and mobile telephones and reworked versions of software and apps. So in a time of new forms of impoverishment for artists, our approach is aggressive in the mixing of discarded and repurposed media taking inspiration from the minimalism and disregard for polish of the Arte Povera movement of Italy in the 1970s.
Around the Northern Hemisphere, species in four circumpolar (and Beringian) genera of fruit trees, Malus (apple), Prunus (cherry), Corylus (hazelnut), and Crataegus (hawthorn), provide crucial ecological and aesthetic ‘services’ as well as fruit, medicine, and wood. Over the last 10,000 years, these species have been important in human survival — on both sides of the Pacific. And as these trees have adapted to human beings, there have been diverse forms of relationships and ‘domestications’ between both plants and humans. As urban ecosystems have degraded in both Eurasia and North America, these small trees have often persisted and provide new opportunities for environmental restoration, green spaces, and food production — as well as cultural renewal. This project is about the decolonial arts and sciences of re-establishing and expanded these historic groves and orchards.
Les espèces de quatre genres circumpolaires (et béringiens) d’arbres fruitiers de l’hémisphère nord, Malus (pomme), Prunus (cerise), Corylus (noisette) et Crataegus (aubépine) fournissent des «services» écologiques et esthétiques cruciaux ainsi que des fruits et des médicaments. et du bois. Au cours des 10 000 dernières années, ces espèces ont joué un rôle important dans la survie humaine – des deux côtés du Pacifique. Et comme ces arbres se sont adaptés aux êtres humains, il y a eu diverses formes de relations et de «domestications» entre les plantes et les humains. À mesure que les écosystèmes urbains se sont dégradés en Eurasie et en Amérique du Nord, ces petits arbres ont souvent persisté et créé de nouvelles opportunités pour la restauration de l’environnement, les espaces verts et la production alimentaire – ainsi que le renouveau culturel. Ce projet concerne les arts et les sciences de la décolonisation de la restauration et de l’expansion de ces bosquets et vergers historiques.
While these fruit and nut trees are part of large and complex gene pools, with some genotypes and species vulnerable to severe decline especially in southern Eurasia, few populations will and can be extinguished — especially in and around North American and European cities.
Bien que ces arbres fruitiers et à noyaux fassent partie de pools génétiques vastes et complexes, certains génotypes et espèces étant vulnérables à un déclin sévère en particulier dans le sud de l’Eurasie, peu de populations seront et pourront être éteintes – en particulier dans les villes nord-américaines et européennes.
What is ‘nearly lost’ is the body of cultural knowledge of more than 10,000 years of human dependance on and care of these ecological allies along with the attention span and observation skills to see these little trees and what they contribute. And in exploring these lost (agri)cultures of native fruit trees, the attacks on indigenous knowledge in North America have been especially egregious. An even more profound loss has come about with the emergence of the 20th Century Eurocentric, consumer subject largely disconnecting aesthetics (and artists) from manual labour (of those who still interact with and tend these trees and fruits) — as explored in this project through the writings of Marcel Proust.
Ce qui est «presque perdu», c’est le corpus de connaissances culturelles de plus de 10 000 ans de dépendance et de soins de ces alliés écologiques ainsi que la capacité d’attention et d’observation pour voir ces petits arbres et leurs contributions. Et en explorant ces cultures (agricoles) perdues d’arbres fruitiers indigènes, les attaques contre les connaissances indigènes en Amérique du Nord ont été particulièrement flagrantes. Une perte encore plus profonde est survenue avec l’émergence de l’eurocentrique du 20ème siècle, sujet consommateur déconnectant largement l’esthétique (et les artistes) du travail manuel (de ceux qui interagissent et entretiennent toujours ces arbres et fruits) – comme exploré dans ce projet à travers les écrits de Marcel Proust..
In the remnants of a Cowichan orchard on Salt Spring Island with blooms of old trees of Qwa-up-ulhp [HUL’Q’UMI’NUM’], Pacific crabapple, Malus fusca and Metth’unulhp [HUL’Q’UMI’NUM’], black hawthorn, Crataegus douglasii var. douglasii
Chokecherry, Prunus virginiana, is the most ubiquitous native tree in the northern half of North America and touches on the wild Prunus gene pools of Eurasia. As the most numerous, wild fruit tree on the continent, chokecherry is a pillar of many ecosystems especially as a food source for pollinators and fruit-eating birds and mammals. Chokecherry is a fast-growing species that sequesters carbon while providing nectar, fruit, and shade. Three years ago, I sucked on and and ate some chokecherry drupes followed by planting the pits. Those seeds are now thriving trees over a metre in height. This year, I planted Mandan porridge corn and blue Hokkaido Kabocha squash at the base of these thriving trees.
an on-going site-based intervention
survival: Marker for Treaty 8 & the Site C Dam
Protection of food resources and respective species and ecosystems, both for local indigenous communities and more generally, has often been the central motive in First Nations governments acquiescing to the treaties drawn up by colonial governments: for survival in the deepest senses. The subsequent disrespecting of such treaties continues to be central to underlying Canadian cultural and political identities. And reasserting treaty and consultative rights (Gutman 2018) has often been bound to continued efforts of indigenous governments to protect and restore those food sources and relationships for communal sustenance. So the disrespecting of treaties has had a relationship to indigenous cultural landscapes and respective ecosystems, food, and emotions: from individual experiences to collective aesthetics and broader visual cultures.
I grew up in a multiracial family with histories and relationships with four indigenous languages: Chinook that I was taught by my father, Sencoten that was spoken around me as a boy and that is the dominant Salish language in the communities in which I grew up and in which I continue to live, Halkamelen in which my father could converse and which is widely spoken across the Salish Sea, and north-western Canadian French / Métis Michif that maternal relatives spoke in northern British Columbia and that was largely avoided in lieu of standard French. From a very early age, I listened to relatives and elders talk about the disrespecting of the Douglas Treaties, on the east coast of Vancouver Island, by provincial and federal agencies, including BC Hydro. These experiences of the betrayal of treaties by the Canadian state, complaints made and confirmed by the trusted figures in our extended family and community, were formative — though less in generating anger and more confirming an intuitive lack of confidence in the Canadian state and a deep commitment to communal survival.
For indigenous communities in Western Canada, historical memories persist of both mass starvation, as seen in the Prairies for First Nations and Métis communities, and a more general theft, degradation, and displacement of food resources from salmon and eulachon to the destruction of indigenous gardens, crabapple groves and hazelnut orchards. These losses have yet to be fully assessed. So food and the arts for cultivation and stewardship are as cultural as they are political — though far less easily integrated into contemporary economies of artistic production and performance.
For most indigenous people in the Western Hemisphere, the disrespecting of treating obligations is ‘old news’. But we often have visceral responses to new forms of ‘macroagression’. With each new disregard for indigenous food resources, there is often rage, sarcasm, the humour of the nearly erased, a thousand levels of sense of helplessness, and the worst forms of despair. And in this mix of feelings, visual culture can be one of the few remaining languages to help us makes sense. Such has been the evolution of my feelings about the recent news of the continued construction of the Site C Dam in north-eastern British Columbia, ostensibly for the publicly owned British Columbia Hydro, even with the opposition of several First Nations governments concerned about food and cultural resources, governments, in contrast to BC Hydro, that continue to abide by Treaty 8.
Soon after the turn of the twentieth century, Treaty 8 was imposed on eight First Nations in British Columbia: Blueberry River, Doig River, Fort Nelson, Halfway River, McLeod Lake, Prophet River, Saulteau, and West Moberly. The communities of what is today north-eastern British Columbia were an ‘adhesion’ to the 1900 Treaty which was centred in what is today the Northwest Territories.
Dams transform regions and in this regard, British Columbia Hydro has functioned as one of the last vestiges of colonialism. The following First Nations will suffer directly from the Site C dam: Doig River, Halfway River, Prophet River and West Moberly — especially in terms of loss of food and other ecosystem-based and cultural resources. Of the First Nations effected by the Site C Dam, the West Moberly and Prophet River First Nations have been most active in attempting to protect traditional land-based resources working to suspend construction. Some other First Nations have been willing to push for mitigations, most that have yet to be implemented, to the project design. A larger group of First Nations have been suffering from the earlier dams on the Peace River.
The recent proposal to dam the ‘Site C’ portion of the Peace River watershed, after the 1968 and 1980 dams, have generated a decade of proposals, patronizing consultations, and controversy often with efforts to pit First Nations governments against each other. For example, Pynn noted in 2013 that as well as those governments opposing the Site C Dam outright, “Three other Treaty 8 First Nations — Blueberry River, Saulteau, and McLeod Lake — have agreed to negotiate for compensation and have been offered ‘impact benefit agreements’, confirmed Dave Conway, BC Hydro community relations manager in Fort St. John.” With this ongoing rancour, Site C has been under construction since July 2015, after being approved by the B.C. Liberals with subsequent court challenges (The Canadian Press 2017). After a short suspension, construction resumed after a new provincial government completed a review in December 2015 (Shaw, 2017, Smith 2017, Alaska Highway News 2018). But with new approvals have come growing resistance much of which has played out in the media (Howell 2017) and the courts (Leotaud 2016, Alaska Highway News 2018, Kurjata 2018). While the cumulative environmental impacts may be debatable, what is clear is that at least two of the First Nations most effected by Site C have treaty protections, especially around food resources, that have been effectively ignored. Resistance, on the land and in the courts, continues (Ducklow 2017).
So as First Nations, Métis, and Inuit communities have taken back their languages, lands, and resources in the last half century, the new ways that provincial agencies and crown corporations have found to circumvent sincere forms of intergovernmental diplomacy and consultation have become more turgid and pernicious. And these ‘contradictions’, to use an understatement, can be very painful and disturbing to individuals with indigenous heritages: ‘same old, same old’ violence (now sugar-coated). Art making, and in particular intervening in ‘public’ space and symbolically compensating for the loss of communal food resources, is one way to cope and move forward. And if there was a central social function of contemporary art in British Columbia in 2018, it is to create intercultural spaces to share divergent experiences and feelings in the face of state and corporate interventions that threaten the survival of vulnerable communities.
Why a marker for Treaty 8, and its disrespecting with the the Site C Dam, so far away from the Peace River Valley? Salt Spring Island is unceded Salish territory, not specifically covered under any treaty, where currently over a score of First Nations governments are active including Cowichan Tribes, the Lyackson, Stz’uminus, Penelakut, and Halat of the Hul’qumi’num Treaty Group; the various W̱SÁNEĆ councils especially the Tsawout with the only allocated Indian Reserve on the island (less than 2 kilometres south of the Marker); and the Tsawwassen. Some of these governments have never chosen to agree to the treaties offered them, notably the Hul’qumi’num Treaty Group. In contrast, the W̱SÁNEĆ have suffered from colonial-era treaties forced on them through threats of imperial violence and where agreements that were dishonoured by government agencies (treaties that did not specifically extend to Salt Spring Island). More recently, the 2009 Tsawwassen First Nation Final agreement (‘the Treaty’) has been the source of ongoing discussion and skepticism — and has some kind of guaranteed relationship to territories on the Gulf Island. Perhaps more important than the unsettled status from these local agreements to the souther place of the Marker is the geopolitical fact that most of the decisions made for the British Columbia portion of Treaty 8 are made nearby, in Victoria and Vancouver, by agencies and politicians who continue to be adversarial to remote indigenous communities such as these. And the Treaty 8 First Nations in British Columbia were ‘Adhesions’, effectively after thoughts, that have given Victoria and Vancouver far more power over these northern communities than was envisioned by the indigenous leaders who signed the Treaty.
While I was ruminating on the past and impending losses in the Peace River Valley during the heat of late summer, canning plums and blackberries, a surprisingly large BC Hydro crew arrived, unannounced, on August 20, 2018. Workers cleared a large hedge of ‘Himalayan’ blackberry, Rubus armeniacus, a particularly invasive Eurasian species that provides both superb jam and prime rat habitat. The crew cleared a quadrant, roughly 10 metres by 10 metres, for a second electricity pole. The remnants of a garden fence, from the pre-1942 farmers, was exposed. This curiously symmetrical and bare spot, on largely unmanaged ‘public’ landed owned by the British Columbia Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, provides an ongoing space to begin to ruminate on and respond to the horrific losses of indigenous food resources for which agencies such as BC Hydro are partially responsible. The cut also highlighted the neighbourhood’s rich history on the cusp of two Salish languages, SENĆOŦEN and Hul’q’umi’num, traditional Salish horticulture and tree stewardship, land grants to Polynesian sailors in the nineteenth century, and Japanese farms that thrived until the internments and deportations beginning in 1942.
The following are the visual responses and aesthetic interventions in this ongoing project:
photographic documentation of the exposed earth and artefacts and subsequent monitoring;
raking and digging in the exposed soil;
movement of rock and wood including eventually signage and other text;
planting a range of local fruit tree seeds and pits, both native, such as chokecherry, and traditional Eurasian trees such as plum;
collaborative cultivation, fencing, harvesting, documentation, tasting, preserving, and crafting;
performances spanning planting, cultivation, and harvesting;
as this orchard of renewal establishes, working with time, time-series, and monitoring as visual practices;
video documentation and the creation of clips for galleries and websites;
performances including around observing the upcoming centennial of the attempted displacement and mysterious disappearance of the last residents of the W̱EN,NÁ,NEĆ village nearby, Zalt and Mary Zalt, of the Tsawout Nation; and
research and writing.
Over the last five hundred years, indigenous peoples have too often been relegated to tiny pieces of earth, sometimes clawing at bare soil. And yet these diverse communities have found and fostered the food resources for our survival. This marker is just one more reminder of the inevitability of survival in the face of one more disrespected treaty.
Howell, Mike. 2017. First Nations leader slams NDP’s decision on Site C project Grand Chief Stewart Phillip says move will cause ‘irreparable harm’ to NDP brand. Vancouver Courier (December 11, 2017).
Kurjata, Andrew. 2018. West Moberly and Prophet River First Nations file court claim to Dam construction violates 1899 treaty and is unconstitutional, notice of civil claim says. CBC News (January 16, 2018).
This grove of Pacific crabapple, KÁ,EWIŁĆ [SENĆOŦEN with the ‘K’ and the ‘W’ underlined], Malus fusca, is on the top of a dune ridge near the southern boundary of one of the Indian Reserves established in Saanich by the fledgling, Crown Colony of Vancouver Island. Some of these trees, especially their roots, are centuries old — and perhaps older. This landscape supports exceptional densities and genetic diversity of Pacific crabapple: a well-documented orchard that was truncated and degraded mid-nineteenth century. Tsawout elders are known to have stewarded and harvested some of these trees as late as the 1990s.
The February 7, 1852 treaty over Central and South Saanich was signed by ten W̱SÁNEĆ leaders under threat of imperial violence (naval assaults that were soon to be inflicted on communities to the north). These W̱SÁNEĆ leaders were focused on maintaining their villages and food resources and may well have not been informed nor understood the severity and permanence of the giveaway of land and resources.
“The conditions of our understanding of this sale is this, that our village sites and enclosed fields are to be kept for our own use, for the use of our children, and for those who may follow after us and the land shall be properly surveyed hereafter. It is understood, however, that the land itself, with these small exceptions, becomes the entire property of the white people for ever; it is also understood that we are at liberty to hunt over the unoccupied lands, and to carry on our fisheries as formerly.”
The actual meaning and continued validity of this treaty hinges on the phrase, ‘our understanding’, which was more likely that of the colonial government and not of the W̱SÁNEĆ. And this scientist and public artist grew up, from a very young age, knowing about the inequities, betrayal, and travesties associated with this particular treaty. In our house: I had to hear about this particular treaty regularly (and in three languages!) from the time that I was a toddler. My use and distrust of the English language is bound organically with words like these.
As for the trees, they remain an exceptional cultural, ecological and genetic resource that has received little serious attention for research. Malus fusca is the only species of the five North American species of apple that hybridizes with, and is in the primary gene pool of cultivated apple, with a range along the North Pacific from California to Alaska to East Asia. The ridge, while vulnerable ecologically, offers superb opportunities for careful performances in cooperation with the Tsawout Nation. Unfortunately, the whole area is exceptional vulnerable to sea level rise with this ridge separated from Haro Strait by only a low expanse of low dune that soon will be beach. And Haro Strait is seeing increasing numbers of massive oil tankers prone to accidents and spills because of narrow channels, rocks, and islets.
osservatorio: orchards of disappearing glaciers for Grigioni, Graubünden
Midway up the Bregaglia Valley, spanning Switzerland and Italy, the village of Soglio, at 1090 metres elevation, and the slopes above it provide important locations for witnessing the melting of the Forno and Albigna Glaciers and to reflect on the implications of the warming and increasingly unstable climate. Vegetation patterns are already beginning to move upward. The valley’s local culture of forest management and cultivation of trees, including apple, chestnut, and pears, could well be tested and transformed. The ‘osservatorio’ project is proposed creating routes and space to view, reflect on, and even experiment and adapt — as new forms of culture, science, and agriculture.
Above the celebrated village of Soglio, three exclosures, of roughly 5 metres by 5 metres,
would protect the beginning of new apple and pear orchards along with a small cabinet, 2 metres by 2 metres, with scientific measuring instruments.
1. The lowest installation could be placed near 1500 metres elevation and could see conditions for apple and pear establishment in the coming decade. If the climate continues to warm, this locale will lose sight of much of the Forno and Albigna Glaciers in the coming decades. The instrument cabinet there could contain analog, and other pre-digital devices, donated or discarded, for measuring mountains, weather, and change made before the 1980s.
2. The middle installation could be placed near 1750 metres elevation and could see an orchard within half a century (with decades of near success at apple and pear establishment). As they melt and shrink, this locale will lose sight of much of the Forno and Albigna Glaciers within half a century. The cabinet there could contain digital equipment from the 1980s into the coming decade.
3. And the highest installation, at roughly 2000 metres elevation, could well be a vantage point for witnessing the disappearance of the glaciers in the coming century. If a pear and apple orchard were to become established at this elevation, it would provide bitter fruit while many other apple and pear trees at lower elevations and latitude would be effectively destroyed by heat and storms. The cabinet there could contain new post-digital technologies, donated or discarded digital equipment, from the second half of the twenty-first century.
The slopes above Soglio are quite steep though there are already numerous forest trails. There are already sheds and cabins and with community interest, three of these sites could be repurposed. There is an old, ‘log cabin’ vernacular for such small structures.