DR. JANET RAY is a physician who works exclusively in mental health and substance use at an acute medical detox unit in Victoria for VIHA. She doesn’t have an art background, and she’s stretching herself to take on the role of organizer for a unique and discussion-provoking Victoria art exhibit curated by Melissa Lem, physician and board member of Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment (CAPE).
Green Party MP Elizabeth May will be the keynote speaker at the opening of “Life in the Sacrifice Zone” on April 6; Lem will also speak about why CAPE physicians are alarmed about fracking, the process by which natural gas is being extracted from the “Sacrifice Zone” in northeastern BC. Fifth-generation farmer and artist Karl Mattson will be present, and his three functional Life Pod sculptures are the focal point of the exhibition. Fashioned of salvaged materials from oil-and-gas-industry scrapyards and farmyards, they are designed to serve as self-contained breathing apparatuses in the event of a lethal sour gas leak or rupture of the pipelines that surround his family farm in Rolla, BC. Large-scale colour photographs of subjects near fracking sites, and written essays about their stories will also be featured, along with film and video.
"Life Pod–Executive" by Karl Mattson
“This is a pretty overwhelming topic, to tell the truth,” Ray acknowledges. “It’s like an ambulance in the rearview mirror; you don’t really want to pull over—‘Maybe I don’t have to stop what I’m doing, it might turn the other way.’”
The UN Intergovernmental Panel Report from 2018 was Ray’s ambulance. “As a physician…I should know what to do in an emergency. If something’s hemorrhaging, you gotta stop it.” She says the first thing CAPE wants to do is inform people. The second “is to create a venue where you can give and receive support for the climate crisis issue—a meeting spot where you can turn that awareness and support into action.” A list of MLAs and MPs, along with letter-writing paper and envelopes, will be on hand at the exhibit so people can “write to their representatives and let them know how they feel about fracking in Northeast BC.”
“Life in the Sacrifice Zone,” Arts Centre at Cedar Hill Recreation Centre, 3220 Cedar Hill Rd, April 6–19 daily. Opening night April 6 at 7pm, tickets at eventbrite.ca.