Of Oil Spills and Oil Paints

Whalebone Collective Uses Guerilla Art to Raise Awareness of Energy East Pipeline

  • Student-created art hanging on a clothing line on the second floor of the H-Building. photo Shaun Michaud

Lines of string resembling clothing lines held together monoprints and drawings from hundreds of students responding to the question, “What does Energy East Pipeline mean to you?”

The structure was part of eco-activist group Whalebone Collective’s presentation of guerilla art making in Concordia’s Hall Building, raising awareness and opening dialogue about the highly controversial Energy East pipeline.

TransCanada recently submitted an application for the pipeline that will transport oil from Alberta’s tar sands to eastern Canada.

After engaging with the student body, Molly McGregor, project head and creative director at Whalebone Collective, realized that many students were not very informed about the pipeline.

Looking for creative ways to make the conversation more accessible, McGregor came up with the idea of a collaborative piece as a way to create a safe space where people could share thoughts and ask questions about the issue.

“Because the Harper government does not want this information to be publicized, a lot of people don’t know how terrible this pipeline will be if it’s passed,” McGregor said.

Supported by the Concordia Student Union, Divest Concordia and the Mob Squad, the piece includes collages, screen-printed sheets and various semi-abstract drawings—one of them by McGregor shows a man falling into an abyss.

More than 300 creations have already been collected. Glue, tape, crayons, markers and plenty of craft-making materials are available for everyone to draw and be creative.

“We want as many diverse opinions as possible,” said McGregor. “We’re just looking for an accurate reflection of the student body and we hope to educate them and get everyone aboard against this pipeline, because it is so detrimental to our environment.”

The collected monoprints will carry on into an evolving gallery at the Hive cooperative as of Nov. 9—the day of the fossil fuel divestment conference at Concordia. The collective will then build puppets to showcase during the protest against the Energy East pipeline on Nov. 15.

The artists running this project will design their own pipeline, which they will carry on their shoulders during the march. Following a narrative performance the protesters carrying the pipeline will use music, homemade instruments and different theatrical devices, including stop signs, to lead the progression forward.

Starting with a song, a first group of protesters will praise the beauty of the Canadian national identity by throwing an array of maple leaves into the air. In stark contrast a second group will follow, singing a funeral song emphasizing the weight and the darkness of the pipeline.

Since it first started, the project has proven to be a great platform for dialogue and quite a joyful place for interaction.

“People also have been just chilling, bringing their lunch down, drawing a picture. It’s been really sweet; there’s been a lot of finger painting, which is fun,” McGregor said.

“So often it gets quite gloomy in activist interventions but what we’re trying to do is recognize the gloom, work with the gloom but also see that solidarity is a beautiful, pure form of love.”

Activist art-building workshops will be held on Nov. 4, 11 and 13 and will involve banner-making, songwriting, slogan-inventing and puppet-building activities. The workshops are open to anyone who wishes to get involved and will take place on the seventh floor of the Hall building, across from the People’s Potato.

“We need to show solidarity as a community. We need to show that there’s more—that people care,” said McGregor. “This place should be full of people. We need to get people helping us because our plan with this is to get everyone involved.”

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