The island of Sumatra in Indonesia consists of a unique ecosystem, home to countless species. This Leuser Ecosystem, covering more than 2.6 millions hectares, provides a steady supply of water, soil fertility, food control and climate regulation to the approximately four million people who live around it. In recent years, the area has been faced with threats of roads and palm oil plantations, and has lost over 40% of its forest.
Spanish artist and activist Escif teamed up with artist-led initiative Splash & Burn, a creative approach to encourage conversation on unsustainable palm oil plantation and its effects on the forests and wildlife of South East Asia. This collaboration, named the REWILD project, resulted in the carving of the familiar rewind symbol into the landscape. A reminder that there is still time — twelve years, warns the UN — to limit climate change before an irreversible collapse. Escif’s art has always focused on the concept of space and the relationship we have to it. On his website, he states:
“[Our] art [is] to propose a different use of public space. The market and politicians monopolise street for their own benefit, against people. We have the opportunity to face this with a different language.”
A conflicting message
The ephemeral nature of his art, as all street art works in general, elevates the REWILD project from visually striking to singularly meaningful. The essence of nature is ever-changing and will consequently erase the message, giving it a limited lifespan that echoes the planet's own short time. Though paradoxically, this also evokes the healing properties of nature and its ability to constantly mend. This glimpse of hope driven by Escif and Splash & Burn invites us to reconnect with and respect nature, and that by doing that, we are effectively rewinding and recovering.
Along with the carving of the rewind symbol, the collaboration generated a short film documenting the process, directed by Splash and Burn’s founder and campaign curator Ernest Zacharevic, and coordinated by Charlotte Pyatt. By supporting initiatives such as MoreTrees, Sumatran Orangutan Society and Orangutan Information Center, all supported by the collective, the Leuser Ecosystem can be cleansed of palm oil plantations and return to its state as one of the planet’s most important lungs.