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Processes of Remediation: art, relationships, nature

Alana Bartol
Curated by Jenelle Pasiechnik

March 23 to July 13, 2024

Processes of Remediation: art, relationships, nature is a multi-part project by artist Alana Bartol that engages the past, present and possible future of coal mining in the areas of Crowsnest Pass, Alberta and North Vancouver Island –  specifically focussing on the site of the Quinsam Coal Mine. Originally conceived to investigate coal mining in what is now known as Alberta, Bartol has expanded the project to examine mining practices and their environmental consequences on operations near Campbell River, BC. Processes of Remediation: art, relationships, nature examines the impacts of coal mining on wildlife, watersheds, ecosystems, and plants. The site-responsive artworks include drawing, video, sculpture, participatory art, and installation.  

This multi-part project was extended to Vancouver Island in the summer of 2023 with a research and land-based residency. Traditional Knowledge Keepers Cory Cliffe (Wei Wai Kum First Nation) and Vanessa Sharkey (Swampy Cree First Nation) have generously shared teachings about Indigenous plants and their properties. That consultation work will continue during the exhibition and inform its programming. 

In a time of climate and ecological crisis, when we have choices to make about protecting wildlife, lands and watersheds, how can we envision and help secure a future for this place where the coal stays inside the earth? How do we imagine ways forward that are not predicated on the continued destruction of the environment rooted in resource extraction and ongoing settler colonial violence? How can art play a role in this process?

-Alana Bartol

Processes of Remediation explores these questions through the concept of environmental remediation. The majority of the artworks that resulted center around areas in the Crowsnest Pass in Southern Alberta, but take on new meaning and relevance in relation to mining practices in the Strathcona Regional District. 

The project draws on Alana Bartol’s work with dowsing (the artist comes from a long line of water witches) and the history of dowsing in connection to mining/resource extraction. Specifically, she has researched Martine de Bertereau, one of the first (recognized) female mineralogists and mining engineers in 17th century France who traveled Europe in search of mineral deposits utilizing specialized divining instruments and other techniques including botany. She was accused of witchcraft and died in France while in prison. The story of de Bertereau is a complex one that points to the violence of resource extraction and the development of capitalism that she both participated in and was killed by. Alana Bartol employs dowsing and the figure of the witch in her artwork to ask us to reconsider consumption-driven relationships to the earth and what are known as ‘natural resources.’