Art and Activism - Creativity and the Endbridge Pipeline

👤Rob Budde 🕔Apr 01, 2012

The world of local art and the larger movements of local politics are not so far apart.

In a variety of forms, in a multitude of different media, in diverse styles and wearing the whole range of political stripes, artists make a difference in politics. They say things in a different way. Art has always been a form of persuasion: a world-view presented to the viewer or reader or listener to discover and adopt. In recent years, this persuasion seems to be focused on local artists’ concern for their immediate community and the land it depends on.

The Enpipe Line is “70,000-plus kilometres of poetry written in resistance to the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipelines proposal,” with the idea of matching the proposed length of the pipeline with the “length” of poetry in opposition to it.

In July 2010, during a Greenpeace protest, Christine Leclerc chained herself to the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipelines office. The protest was in solidarity with First Nations whose territories are threatened by the pipelines and who stand firmly in opposition to the project.

Just as a recap, the completion of this proposed pipeline would see tar-sands crude oil run from north-central Alberta to Kitimat, BC in one of the two pipelines that make up the project. Over 1,000 waterways would be touched by the proposed pipelines. Oil tankers would take the crude from the port into the difficult waters of the Inside Passage.

On November 1, 2010 The Enpipe Line project was launched at UNBC in Prince George; Christine Leclerc and Reg Johanson (who also has writing in the collection) read and began the process of soliciting submissions. One of the manifestations of the process is a book published by Smithers-based Creekstone Press.

Leclerc describes the project in her introduction: “The [collective] long poem found in this book is comprised of the poems submitted to The Enpipe Line website in resistance to the proposed pipelines, and stands in solidarity with similar projects that resist social or environmental destruction. . . . Proceeds from the sale of this book will be deposited into a Northern Gateway Pipelines resistance legal defense fund. This is important to the editorial collective as we want to support the physical processes of resistance that inspired the book in the first place.”

There is a stereotype that artists are disconnected from the “real” world and frivolously ‘play’ at a fanciful pastime. Christine Leclerc and others like her are testaments to a very different vision of art and its place in our society. While much of the debate around the pipeline proposal has to with numbers (dollars, timelines, investment, compensation, safety records, jobs, MPs and MLAs for or against, etc), the creative written expressions of loss, fear, outrage, and the intense connections to the physical land in question provide a much-needed human context to the issue. A poem that says ‘I live here and this is how this pipeline will affect me and the non-human creatures I know’ is the kind of testimony that gets at the heart of what this proposal means. It also says, ‘I am here and speaking my mind in powerful ways.’

The Joint Review Panel is still accepting written submissions and I urge everyone to submit their thoughts, creative or not, and contribute to this important decision for the region.