Al Bersch & Leslie Grant, 2015
Two Tours is a mixed media project created with folklorist, archivist and photographer Al Bersch. We were invited to participate in a residency with the Nanaimo Art Gallery in Nanaimo, BC in the summer of 2015. We stayed at Wildwood on Vancouver Island, where Merv Wilkinson established a sustainable forest management and logging practice.
We took tours of the property with Jay Restogi, an ecologist, and Bruce Hepburn, the caretaker, to learn about both the ecosystems and the evidence of logging and other resource-gathering activities on the site. We set up a darkroom in the basement of a homestead built by Merv Wilkinson, the previous owner of the property (Wildwood is now owned by the Ecoforestry Institute Society), and made our photographs using a 4x5 camera and direct positive paper so that the process could be completed on site.
Our research also included the Harmac Pulp Mill in Nanaimo. We tried to go on a tour of the mill but were turned away, so we researched the archival materials from Harmac held in the Nanaimo Community Archives. Our title, Two Tours, reflects the initial tours we took of Wildwood paired with the tour guide regulations and the letters thanking tour guides we found in the Harmac archival papers. We layered with our images, snapshots of Wildwood donated by the caretaker of the property and an ecologist who works there, and archival materials from Harmac in an installation at the Nanaimo Art Gallery in November 2015.
With thanks: Jesse Birch, Jennie Cane, Jesse Gray, Bruce Hepburn, Jay Rastogi, Wes Staven, Jen Weih, Denis Wilkinson, Ecoforestry Institute Society, and Nanaimo Community Archives.