'How Music and Art Can (Help) Save The World' / Ingrid Rzechorzek
In her academic, artistic and personal pursuits, Ingrid Rzechorzek finds herself drawn to two worlds. Traditionally considered as starkly separated by a clear boundary, the now fuzzy and emerging frontier where art meets the environment is where Ingrid’s mind resides. Environmental sustainability, linked so closely with combatting the dangers we face in climate change and environmental degradation, she argues, must be brought to consciousness through artistic mediums, the age-old transmitters of important social messages. Ingrid observes that today, while so many valuable and valid social issues compete for space in the huge and complex art-scene, environmentalism mustn’t be forgotten - Benjamin Armstrong (thoughts editor).
Ingrid Rzechorzek is a student of the University of Melbourne studying Bachelor of Arts (Majoring in Social and Environmental Geography). The images used in the publication of the article are Ingrid's own work.
The production and consumption of art by youth has always stood as a defining component of the social fabric that responds to collective issues of societies past and present. Further, the process of creating culture through art has always been, for some, an essential trope of transitioning from young adulthood to adulthood. For our generation, what we experience now is a technological revolution where culture is produced and consumed in a variety of mediums, enabling innovative and alternative artistic practices to emerge where they might not have in the past.
Youth-driven subcultures have always existed. Mostly, they are artistically or musically oriented movements that aim to reflect social dissonance in society and subvert traditional norms. Whilst the goals of previous subcultures such as the 1960s Hippie renaissance and Punk movement clearly stood to reject the dominant materialist values of the time and promote individual freedom; the purpose of music and art nowadays is not so easily prescribed a single objective.
Though we can safely say that since the late 20th and early 21st centuries, environmentalism has gradually surfaced as a prominent feature of contemporary artistic life, it would be fallacious to suggest that issues of environmental awareness and sustainability should define the focal point of contemporary culture. Rather, today, a myriad of societal themes characterise contemporary art.
Indeed, it is our engagement with art that should change, one that embraces environmental awareness alongside promoting other cultural topics.
In recent years, the number of environmentally-focussed documentaries, films, and television series have skyrocketed, marking an apparent ‘green-wave’ in cultural production. Whilst the topics addressed through these outlets are imperative in highlighting major issues on how we engage with the environment (such as Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth), video medium often employs disturbing imagery not to persuade viewers of the merits of living green, but to induce panic at the consequences if they do not. To me, this method of environmental argument errs on the side of questionable. Alternatively, simply portraying the quantitative consequences of human action (or inaction) can instil a sense of detachment between the audience and the environment, rendering a lack of community engagement. Instead, we need to actively fuse the celebration of art and environmental activism together, promoting a more interactive and constructive approach to environmental sustainability.
Initiatives that combine environmental consciousness and creative expression are already taking place in Melbourne, and are developing into forums that transform the way we consume art. Off The Grid music festival is a self-powered, zero-waste artistic event that annually takes place at The Australian Centre For Contemporary Art (ACCA). Featuring a killer music line-up and the quintessential ‘dance, drink, eat’ aspect of any music festival, Off the Grid would initially appear to be the typical creative event. But what makes this festival unique is its not-for-profit aspect. In fact, all profits made are used to fund solar projects in Melbourne, placing environmental consciousness at the top of this group of artists’ social agenda.
It is innovative celebrations like this that are incredibly important in enabling audiences to re-appropriate the way we consume culture into sustainable scenarios. Incorporating acts of saving the Earth in our daily lives is not solely contained to small gestures like composting or ‘letting it mellow’, but instead extends to unassuming cultural settings where we can actively mesh together sustainable business models, messages and artistic pursuits. This re-definition of culture by accommodating environmentalism is a necessary part of ensuring the longevity of our relationship with the Earth and its finite resources. I believe the artists and audiences of our generation need to think with innovation about the way we present art, and facilitate sustainable practices into our creative lives.