How do we as artists respond to tumultuous times? Picasso lived through World War II, holed up in his Parisian apartment painting on newspapers. He was Spanish, so was not conscripted to the French army. He responded to these times not in an obvious way, but his art turned the established salon art scene upside down. No material was considered too obscure to include in his art and realism became distorted into cubes.
We are living in tumultuous times. We are at war with the entire planet, bringing upon ourselves environmental degradation of such immense proportions that we are too overwhelmed to navigate a clear path into creating the future. How do we as artists respond? I can only say from personal experience that the thing I hang onto is hope, a life buoy bobbing in tumultuous seas. We don’t know if we can be saved but we hang on for dear life and ride the storm.
Today we joined others at beaches all along the east coast to survey the latest environmental devastation caused by ex-tropical Cyclone Oma. Sand eroded from great swathes of beach and dumped further up or down the tideline. Trees uprooted, salty water eating into the roots of fragile coastal edge vegetation. Yet I believe that there are people who have the money and technology to turn things around. That grass roots people movements are forging alternate ways of living with less, with questioning what we buy, where we source it, how we spend our money and reduce our human footprint.
How do we as artists contribute to this? Do we continue to make new art and so add to the stuff that is everywhere? If the urge is to create how do we make consciously, with awareness of our contribution to this dialogue. Making paper from recycled clothes or invasive weeds, recycling our old art works, slower more conscious living. These are some very small ways I know of where artists make conscious art choices. We can only start with ourselves, join groups to promote peace and humane justice, hold steady to our own integrity and believe in our own truth. Despair leads to apathy and that is the enemy of change.
Currumbin Beach Vikings Surf Lifesavers in their distinctive yellow and red clothing gathered at Elephant Rock to watch as the waves swept half the beach onto their club carpark. The beach was closed to swimmers yet there were a few intrepid surfers with flippers braving the waves. I keep seeing this as some sort of a metaphor of resilience. We will adapt to these environmental changes, we will be foolhardy and wade into wild waves, we will dig ourselves out of the sand and somehow find new ways to meet the world. I don’t know how it is going to shape up but I know I am here at this time to be part of the narrative. Its our story, let’s create a happy ending.