Artists vs Extinction—Making Art With a Purpose
“There are two distinct languages. There is the verbal, which separates people… and there is the visual that is understood by everybody.” – Yaacov Agram, Sculptor
Art is a common language shared by all humans, and has been used through the ages to celebrate nature, and to influence our beliefs and actions. As we face global challenges around consumption, climate and human rights a group of artists have assembled under the banner of Artists vs Extinction to discuss these challenges and find ways to use their visual communication skills to influence the people who have the power to shape the world we live in.
Efflam Mercier founded the Artists vs Extinction Facebook group just one month ago (August 2019) to provide a safe space for artists to discuss the environmental and growth/consumption problems facing the world. Though he’s admits he is not the first to identify the challenges, discussing the problems inevitably come with other emotions like anger, fear and uncertainty: “Artists increasingly want to say something about the climate crisis, but there are so many barriers to entry: Have I researched enough to talk about this topic? Will I be labelled as too political? Am I the only one who cares about this? Thousands of artists worldwide are increasingly touched by the crisis, and want to do something about it with their art. But where to start? For artists working in entertainment, it has to start with honesty and hope. Honesty to open up about your feelings of ecological grief, and hope in knowing you are not alone in this fight. As artists, we have so much untapped power, and it’s by banding together that we’ll be able to tell the stories that need to be told. We need an epic saga of hopeful grassroots efforts, and more honest depictions of the future.”
Jakub Rozalski: “As you know, I rarely refer to current affairs in my work, but this whole situation with rainforest fires in South America really makes me sad and angry. And a few weeks ago a similar situation in Siberia… It is really heartbreaking for me when I think about all these animals and amazing wild nature ecosystem which will just vanish. I don’t have enough knowledge to speak on this topic, for sure it is a lot more complicated than it seems, but I just wanted to make something, to not feel totally useless, and support everyone who tries fight with this catastrophic situation, Junglekeepers and all my friends in Brazil. It would be much more beautiful if we could unite in a heroic fight with some powerful demon … unfortunately, the reality is much less heroic and it seems that we, as a species, are the demon in that story.“
Sean Bodley: “Global warming is affecting our celestial home, in ways we understand and also can’t imagine. Let’s not play with fire in our house! Protect our skies and support renewable solutions! This artwork is part of a climate art series.”
Sean Bodley: “The latest painting in a series of climate sci-fi artworks. Imagine a hundred+ years from now, humanity has failed to quit fossil fuels fast enough in the 2020’s, and future generations have picked up the mantel to invent creative ways to live off the land sustainably. Extreme storms erode the topsoil, landscape, and vegetation, but wind power is plentiful. Advances in material sciences allow for ‘wind lens’ turbines to be turned in to self-sufficient homes for dozens of people.”
Josh Godin: “This isn’t my first or only darkstab towards merging art with purpose, but it’s the smallest bite so the first to finish. Here are my thoughts on the work, copied from my Instagram post.
I’ve been struggling with how to use my work lately. All of my experience is in game design and that’s felt quite hollow as an endeavor these last few years. I decided to look towards other inspirations for my personal work and just see where it goes. I started with this illustration of Greta Thunberg arriving in NYC because it’s such a monumental moment for this movement. She faces constant nonsense detractors who imagine scenarios where she’s somehow hypocritical or unethical or even ‘used’ by the media… all in an attempt to ease their own anxiety and stoke their ignorance. So here she is—proving undeniably that she is every bit as powerful as the words she wields—stomping her foot on US soil after crossing the ocean on a carbon-neutral sailboat. I’ll be joining her again on this trek next week, family in tow!”
Victor Van de Voorde
Apart from the kids’ books I make about climate change (see worldsavingbooks.com ), I’m currently making cartoons as an Artist for the Earth Day Network.
Megan J Herbert: “This is for all the artists making work, improving your skills, expressing your you-ness, trying to move the world–even if no-one is watching. For the writers getting up at 5am, unobserved, to write, write, write–even if this bears no importance to anyone but you. For the kids striking school to safeguard their futures–even in the face of resistance. For the rebels disrupting the status quo, to make people wake up–even when the people you’re fighting for don’t thank you. For people carrying the heavy loads of depression and anxiety–even though lifting those weights feels so hard. For anyone feeling like a salmon swimming upstream–which we all do, at one time or another. And for me (pictured). Working my way out of darkness and back into the light.
Just pick yourself up, wield your weapon of choice, and keep going. Even if it’s a tiny step today, make it. Even if it’s just standing up, refusing to lie down, do it.”
There are numerous movements and organisations advocating for a better future. If you’re interested in lending your voice you can begin the process of informing yourself with the following resources:
- Share this article