These fearless female artists prove that you don’t need to be a scientist to change the world – here’s how you can make a start
“Did the planet betray us, or did we betray the planet?” questions former vice-president Al Gore in his 2006 doc-cum-horror flick, An Inconvenient Truth. Discussion around anything remotely related to the environment can seem both overwhelming and paralysing. The world is too big and the problem too huge. It’s miles easier to de-contextualise our consumption and separate our habits from any large-scale consequence because surely, driving electric cars, buying locally and recycling won’t make that much of a difference. However, eco-artist-gals like Glacier Girl, Ella Goerner, Rachel Pimm and Eloïse Bonneviot are keen to encourage curiosity over complacency.
Eco-issues are as much theoretical as they are practical, and for the most part, the way we approach this subject needs to change before any practical benefits come to fruition. Whether it’s using fashion for revolution, adopting an #eco-punk mentality or simply spreading awareness through Instagram, these fearless artists break down what it means to be and think like an Eco-Warrior.
BE FASHIONABLY RADICAL
Glacier Girl: “Remember The Glaciers stemmed from my school art project exploring the correlation between globalisation, capitalist society, mass consumption and the environment. One of my pieces focused on the subconscious manipulation we experience through advertisement. Within my seven-minute bus journey to school there were 15 billboards. 15! The idea that leaving my house to get an education somehow gave consent to bombardment by corporations suddenly hit me. Living in a city and being constantly fed information telling me what to buy and why it was so ‘natural’ to my daily life. The reality is that my existence subjects me to destructive brainwashing. How could I change this?
Capitalist society led me to believe that I was insignificant and couldn’t make a difference. I wanted to flip this around and spread a constructive message by acting as a human billboard for the glaciers. You can say so much with fashion and everyone can see it, now my presence felt beneficial. Throwing the Shell logo at people as a ‘trend’ revealed how susceptible we are to branding. It’s a reminder that as consumers we are effectively all wearing Shell and we must change this. The massive lesson I learnt was that the system we are living in is illogical and it’s okay to question it. Don’t fear opposition: use it as ammunition- our voice can only get louder.”
Ella Goerner: “I invented the term #eco-punk to propose another ambivalent term. The term is alluring and offers a specific kind of symbolism. It is a term that is proposing that you are not just accepting the binary codex of a good/bad mentality of what ecology or an ecologic action could be. And it should lead into action, active research – a move to find a stand in a mesh of always-new data around a very anthropocentric problem. It is important to acquire knowledge to find a balance that is comfortable for the consumer and the producer.
You shouldn't stop being curious and to see if you can find a very unique and creative way to deal with your responsibility as a citizen. I strongly believe that dealing with our everyday problems, also ecological concerns, in a creative way holds key for a happy and a responsible life in a complex society.”
START SHIT ON SOCIAL MEDIA
Glacier Girl: “Starting my project was as easy as creating an Instagram account. The main aim of my work is to create accessible information and awareness about climate change – and social media is a brilliant platform. Having a community of like-minded individuals is a massive advantage, especially when your community can be worldwide! I think it’s important to mention that we’re all still learning, nobody expects you to know everything. Yes, research is important and I do a lot of it but I’m no scientist – don’t let that stop you from raising awareness!”
Ella Goerner: “I don't think that the digital age has fostered an apathetic approach to eco-issues, I think that people just tend to see the world more as a network, a mesh. If a Nokia factory blows up in the Philippines there will be an issue somewhere in Brazil. People always tend to ignore things, but an online community can be a mirror. I believe that when you are able to discuss your beliefs with others and see how concerned others are, you can reshape your action.”
“I’m no scientist – don’t let that stop you from raising awareness!” – Glacier Girl
RETHINK WHAT ‘NATURE’ MEANS
Eloïse Bonneviot: “It is important to remember how notions of ‘nature’ and the ‘wild’ have been used to separate us from ‘inferior’ species, and also from people outside of the West. Such notions are being used for the appropriation, colonisation and domination of others. The cultural mythology of nature happened through very strong visuals illustrating the struggle of men to conquer harsh landscapes. We are still fascinated with conquering these environments and yet we understand the limitation of this model.
Implicitly, it is important to refuse that division and think in terms of ‘ecology’ rather than ‘nature’. More broadly, that would also mean the act of refusing to draw harmful understandings of our environment, such as ‘body vs mind’, ‘artificial vs natural’ etc.”
CHALLENGE UTOPIAN DREAMS
Rachel Pimm: “Utopia has a fascinating and illuminating reading list. The socialist utopian fiction writers of the late 1800s invented capitalist utopia. Our green utopias are inseparable from being a good worker and consumer. The fictional fountains and trees gracing temperate glazed buildings, scattered with convenient seating became a reality in the form of trade shows and world fairs, botanical gardens and golf courses, shopping malls and offices and homes. I look at our current environments and technological life solutions as following on from the history and materials of capitalism and the palatable veneer of the natural – which itself is a human construct.
The capitalist utopia is a fully hybrid space – a conservatory for a productive humanity. We should fit ourselves with a full awareness and constant suspicion of what green stuff is made of, who has authored, owned it, or adopted it, to start to decode its meaning. Once we get there, we can be as playful, anarchic, or as sly as we like. Perhaps it is our job to take back utopia.”