I’ve been involved with the struggle against HS2 for a while now, and spent a year living on and off protest camps in woodlands that Hs2 have now destroyed/cut off access to, in between community organising in my hometown, Hull. Being part of this movement has shown me the importance of building a resillient community that can rely less and less on govermental systems (we need to create alternatives, not just ‘smash the system’!). Our government is willing to spend Billions on destructive megaprojects that harm us on so many levels, when people are suffering from lack of access to good food, mental health servies, shelter, land, meaningingful work, etc. We need to find ways to look after each other, share skills and knowledge and learn and develop alternatives to systems and practices that harm us.
I draw a lot – whatever’s going on around me – including snippets of conversations that are happening. I draw to document what’s going on (people’s lives, the funny/mundane moments and the devastation and inequality that we’re confronted with regularly), to try to create a platform for unheard voices. I like to work in fabric, collecting old clothes, bedsheets, curtains ect, making collages of drawings i’ve done. I stitch these together on a machine and add paint.
The 3 collections of artworks are from my time living on protest camps and travelling up the line talking to people affected by Hs2 in their homes, between April 2020 and June 2021.
Since then i have made a comic called ‘GRAB LAND BACK’ which looks at HS2, the resistance against it, and puts it in the context of the history of land privatisation, class oppression, and the justice system.
You can have a look HERE
Sketches of the HS2 Protest Camps
May 2020-June 2021
These camps are made up of people that reject society’s norms/ have been failed by the system, want something different, better, more loving and fair. How can we create the sort of living that allows people to really love and nurture those wild spaces and each other, whilst facing and fighting these megaprojects?
There have been countless meaningful moments, where we have dipped our toes into this possibility.
There is playfulness and freedom in the spaces we sleep and eat; treehouses, shacks and barns- higgledy piggleydy or measured and straight, bodged, bashed, weaved together from pallets, skipped windows, donated bits and bobs. To build your own home out of nothing is a wonderful thing! Meals cooked around a fire from skipped and donated bits, songs shared, rewrote, sang like anthems. Ideas & skills shared, carving, strategy, climbing, wrestling, abolition, land law, self defence, consent, building, drawing; lets build a school, a tower, a curry.
The same faces popping up and down the line, people from different places, backgrounds & movements, mostly getting along. These camps are a lot of peoples first experience of community living. They’re far from perfect but they can be good.
It’s proved pretty hard to create alternative, nourishing (for people AND land) and ‘long-term thinking’ ways of living when the bailiffs are on your back and the laws are against you; how can we think long term when too much is happening ‘right now!’? You don’t have much extra energy for public engagement and community building while trying to stay warm/rebuild a home. There’s little capacity to address and understand your own/or others trauma when your full-up trying to understand the legal and convoluted language of the justice system. Living on these camps can feels like a game of cat and mouse, being chased up the line.
Thankfully, creativity and joy persist despite extractivism, and bonds made outlive the camps. The same faces in different places. Opinions mature/change, different tactics, slowing down, learning from others. Understanding what doesn’t work and what may. A little wiser. Setting up spaces in new places. I have about 20 more numbers in my phone.
Sketches of those who live along the HS2 route in houses, fighting for their communities and futures.
May 2020- June 2021
It’s not just forests that will be damaged/destroyed, its people’s homes, livelihoods, and communities too! During the autumn and winter of 2020 a couple of us went to find people along the line who were affected by HS2 works. We didn’t actually manage to speak to anyone who had had their homes compulsory purchased by, most of those people signed non disclosure agreements, aka ‘gagging orders’, refusal to do so would mean no compensation!
Those we did meet had their own set of problems; dust and noise pollution, cracking walls, losing neighbours and landscapes and being left in the dark by HS2. Despite this, we found people organising in their communities, growing closer despite their struggles. We found determination, anger, humor, sadness and warmth.
AFTER THE NIGHT SHIFT (2021)
‘After the night shift’- a portrait of a friend at Jones Hill protection camp, asleep in a chair after a night on bailiff lookout. This person was a massive part of the community of Jones Hill woods, and did a lot of washing up after people and night shifts on look out- thank you! The police took out a personal injunction against him meaning he couldn’t go within 25 meters of HS2 work, which included his home! Why are the police spending masses of money doing the work of HS2?
BE MORE CAREFUL (2021)
‘Be more careful’ – a portrait of Sarah Green who co-started the first protection camp – Harvil road – where she lived for over a year. Along with many others, Sarah’s livelihood suffered at the hands of HS2- she used to take people up and down the stunning canal on her boat. Sarah has campaigned tirelessly for years against HS2, specifically the contamination by HS2 of London’s drinking water!
OTHER SIDE OF THE FENCE (2021)
‘Other side of the fence’- a HS2 worker explains his relationship to his job, “…we’ve seen shit to get here, hella things, this is the only job I can get right now, I need this job…”. In the heat of conflict there can be a tendency to see the workers as ‘baddies’. It’s understandable when you consider the devastation and loss of homes caused by Hs2, but their frontline workers are suffering the same racist, classist oppression and economic pressures that people are protesting against.
I made a comic about my experience of HS2, land privatisation, and police and prisons. Please have a look at it HERE.
To order a hard copy, email firstname.lastname@example.org
Visit Chesney’s Website
Learn more about HS2:
The Extracting Us exhibition and conversation series is co-curated by Siti Maimunah, Elona Hoover, Dian Ekowati, Alice Owen and Rebecca Elmhirst with critical insight and support from independent curator Celina Loh. Online exhibition designed and developed by Celina Loh with the Extracting Us Collective.
This project is made possible by support from ONCA Gallery, the Centre for Spatial, Environmental and Cultural Politics at the University of Brighton, the Wellbeing, Ecology, Gender and cOmmunity research network funded by the European Union Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No 764908), and collaboration with the Women in Action on Mining in Asia (WAMA) collaborative network and the ‘Sustainable’ Development and Atmospheres of Violence: Experiences of Environmental Defenders project funded by The British Academy.
WEGO-ITN (Wellbeing, Ecology, Gender and cOmmuny International Training Network) is an EU-funded research network contributing to the political ecology, feminist studies, human geography, anthropology, and development studies’ understanding of extractivism, commoning, care, communities, livelihoods, embodied subjectivities and resistance to development. WEGO-ITN is made up of scholar-activists working on feminist political ecology from ten institutions in six European Union countries: Germany, Italy, Norway, Spain, The Netherlands, and the United Kingdom and ten institutions from eight countries for training and secondments: Australia, India, Indonesia, Italy, New Zealand, Portugal, Uruguay and USA.
The Centre for Spatial, Environmental and Cultural Politics (SECP), based at the University of Brighton, undertakes interdisciplinary research to address global and planetary challenges such as climate change, human migration, social inequalities and resource access or depletion. SECP explores the environmental, spatial and cultural dimensions of ecological and social challenges in specific places, to offer new knowledge and practice for the creation of more sustainable and socially just societies.
ONCA is a Brighton based arts charity that bridges social and environmental justice issues with creativity. ONCA promotes positive change by facilitating inclusive spaces for creative learning, artist support, story-sharing and community solidarity. ONCA Gallery works with artists, educators and organisations to co-deliver exhibitions, events and workshops that explore social and environmental issues.
Except where otherwise noted, the content on this site is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
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As with the Extracting Us exhibition, we invited the Despite Extractivism contributors to consider how their work can follow our guiding principles:
• The online exhibition brings together artistic and creative contributions that explore everyday community experiences of and responses to extractivism, and/or engage in ongoing conversations around extractivism, communities and care, in its various forms and registers.
• It includes three core aims:
– to challenge ‘north-south’ and ‘producer-consumer’ narratives on extractivism
– to listen to perspectives from those most affected, and develop actions of solidarity and resistance across countries and continents
– to challenge the viewer to make (sometimes unexpected) connections and develop solidarity (e.g, inviting the viewer to take specific actions or connect with the community
• The exhibition thinks about extractivism and care in terms of materials from (and of) the earth, and considers the experiences of humans and the rest of the natural world.
• The exhibition will include narratives of resistance where possible/relevant; and avoid relying on pathos that might develop an ‘us/them’ feeling
• The exhibition will work with quality materials while also challenging ‘professional’ or ‘distanced’ kinds of aesthetics
Despite Extractivism assembles expressions of care, creativity and community from diverse sites of extraction and geographical contexts. Extractivism is characterised by the violent accumulation of resources, which often devastates and disrupts affected communities and the natural world. Collectively, the works in this exhibition illuminate and explore ways of questioning, subverting and resisting the logics and impacts of extractivism.
Despite Extractivism is part of the ongoing ‘Extracting Us’ collective journey exploring the diverse, uneven but sometimes connected ways in which resource extraction also extracts from communities. It is an invitation to explore questions around extractivism and its logics, but also to explore the already-existing alternatives. How do communities and creatives (struggle to) cultivate care for nature and for each other despite extractivism? Can sites of extraction be a fertile ground for alternatives? Can artistic interventions help foster new sensibilities and solidarities with distanced extractive contexts?
Like weeds growing through the cracks in concrete, and in their flourishing slowly forcing the cracks to widen, the contributors to Despite Extractivism scatter here their seeds of ways of thinking or being in extractive contexts.
There are stories of artists who are involved with communities inhabiting landscapes threatened by destructive projects, imagining and practising ways of being which subvert and resist extractivism: V’Cenza Cirefe’s Counter-mapping in the Sperrins (resisting gold mining in Northern Ireland), Chesney’s Down The Line (resisting the HS2 railway in England) and Federico Pardo’s forthcoming contribution (resisting gold mining in Cajamarca, Columbia).
There are illuminations of other tactics of resistance, from the creativity of the Kartini Kendeng women ecological defenders and their portrayals by Dewi Candraningrum (resisting cement mining in Java, Indonesia), to the counter-mapping initiative by the Pari Island community, JKPP and collectives to stop extractive tourism (Seribu Islands, Indonesia).
There are explorations of the uneven geographies of extractivism, with Karin Edstedt’s (Title) embroidery depicting the disproportionate environmental injustices of mining on indigenous communities (copper extraction conflict in Laver, Sápmi; coal mining in Kalimantan, Indonesia), and Sandro Simon’s audiovisual work Bidonmondes drawing attention to the omnipresence of extractivism through the everyday repurposing of imported palm oil canisters in the Sine-Saloum Delta, Senegal (originating from extractive palm oil plantations in Indonesia and Malaysia).
There are intimate accounts of uprooting due to extractive projects, accompanied by the persistent determination to build or rebuild lives in Between Rivers by Daniel Macmillen Voskoboynik (Intergenerational care and multidimensional extractivism, Russian Urals), This is my Home by Maria Rosa Pessoa Piedade & Marilene Ribeiro (dispossession caused by the Belo Monte dam, Brazil) and In the Forest We Believe by Albertus Vembrianto (Covid-19) exacerbates migration from a coastal area affected by gold mining waste, Papua, Indonesia).
Finally, there are invitations to engage with practises and performances which inspire embodied reflection on the destruction and destabilising effects of extractivism in distanced contexts: Arabel Lebrusen’s Toxic Waves II (in response to deadly failure of a dam at the Córrego do Feijão iron ore mine in Minas Gerais, Brazil ) and Choules+Roisner’s REGOLITHIC (in response to global extraction).