Art as Environmental Justice: Social and Creative Intervention for Planetary Healing
Art allows people to relate to vast and often unfathomable concepts by engaging the heart and the senses. Art can break down big issues, like climate change, into small, digestible pieces. Art compels thought, helps us feel and process emotion, starts conversation and sparks creativity. Artists can say difficult things to people through their medium, messages that might not go down as easily if they were conveyed only through words.
In 2005, in an article titled What the Warming World Needs Now Is Art, Sweet Art 350.org founder Bill McKibben wrote that although we knew about climate change, we didn’t really know about it; it wasn’t part of the culture yet. Where are the books? The plays? The goddamn operas? he asked. An intellectual understanding of the scientific facts was not enough – if we wanted to move forward and effect meaningful change, we needed to engage the other side of our brains. We needed to approach the problem with our imagination. And the people best suited to help us do that, he believed, were the artists.
If we are to avoid irreversible global warming that will have devastating economic and social consequences for the world, “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society” are required. This was the conclusion of a special report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published in October. We – the collective “we” – have been given 12 years to arrest climate change. The message is clear: everyone is responsible for creating a more environmentally sustainable world. And the arts and cultural sector is no exception*.
This In Conversation with multidisciplinary artists and creators Sujatro Ghosh, Guy Reid and Nadia Tahoun explored the role of art in helping us form opinions, educating us about the truth and shifting our worldviews. Together we discovered how films, immersive experiences and artistic activism can have a leading role in tackling climate change and addressing social and environmental justice.
Sujatro Ghosh is a multidisciplinary, multilingual artist and activist from Kolkata. His art actively criticizes hegemonic power structures and institutionalized mechanisms of injustice. His investigation as an artist concentrates on queer rights, social justice issues, diasporic tensions and women’s rights. Sujatro believes in initiating a dialogue about social action through his work, which develops into a form of political protest that requires ‘othered’ voices to be heard. This urgency to fight for justice, to bring a change, is what he wish to convey through his art. Sujatro’s intention is to use culture as a means to develop conversations around the overturning of mainstream ideas around gender, class and caste.
Guy is an award-winning director, speaker and photographer, specialising in eastern philosophy, ecology and sustainable development. He has a masters degree in leadership in sustainable development from London’s Forum for the Future, and also studied at SOAS in London with a focus on Indo-Tibetan Buddhism and the relationship between worldview and ecology. He is co-founder of Planetary Collective: a creative organisation dedicated to worldview interruption. Through film, installation art, photography and technology we strive to tell the story of our interdependence. We believe passionately in the power of creative works to change perspectives, lives, and ultimately the planet.
Nadia Tahoun is a Producer, Curator, and friend of the artist. She is the Co-Founder of Flower Shop Collective (FSC), an arts and fabrication studio that cultivates the ideas of emerging artists working towards more equitable futures. Her independent curatorial efforts have been mentioned in Forbes, ARTnet, Art News, and Hyperallergic. In her Film and Experiential Production career she has worked with Daniel Arsham Studio, Def Jam, Beats by Dre, The Cooper Hewitt Museum, and most recently Justin Bieber.