Extinction Rebellion: Ideas For Eco-Friendly Art Activism

By Cory for Boston Compass (#124)

June 26, 2020


Hey everyone,

Cory here. How are you doing?

This is a monthly column about local protest art, coming to you from the Boston chapter of Extinction Rebellion ("XR"). XR is a worldwide, decentralized resistance movement fighting human extinction and ecological collapse. We demand truthtelling, immediate government response, and the creation of citizens assemblies to combat these threats. In the US, we also specifically demand a just transition that centers the most-impacted, including indigenous peoples, people of color, disabled folks, workers, and the poor. (Hey, that's almost everyone!)

So it's June, and we're 2.5 - 3.5 months into social distancing. That's a LONG time to be inside. Right now I'm sitting at a desk trying to squeak this column in (bless you, Compass editors!). But two days ago I made some climate art around my neighborhood. I drew boats in sidewalk chalk with messages like "Different boats, same storm," and made folded paper boats with sharpie'd slogans that I hung along a public path.

These messages are part of an ongoing Art Saturation we launched last month - many small pieces of climate art put up around the city. Anyone is welcome to join. Themes include rising seas, connections with COVID-19, and support for workers. We're also hosting a series of artmaking workshops - see www.xrmass.org/action for info.

Here are some reasons we chose this action, and ways you can participate:


FORM + FUNCTION:

Making non-permanent protest art in public sparks hope and resistance, offers color and curiosity, reaches a large number of people, and expresses climate anxiety in helpful forms. It's also fun to do, gets folks outside, and can be made while social distancing.

Sidewalk chalk washes off with rain. Paper signs are usually biodegradable, but should be taken down before a storm so they don't become trash. Other good materials include flags made from 100% natural fabrics, spray chalk, and music.

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SAFETY + CARE:

Make sure you're not putting art on anyone's property, and that it won't leave stains, damage, or waste. My personal opinion is that permanent resistance art has a place (that's not an official XR stance, just my belief). However, this project is about sharing concern, education, and solidarity. That's tough to do when people feel disrespected or attacked, or when local governments see your org in that light.

You can check local laws about "graffiti" and "defacement," to get a sense of how cops / officials might interpret certain projects. Importantly, don't make mess or stress for Public Works employees.


DOCUMENT IT:

Take photos of what you make and email them to xr.boston.art@protonmail.com

Get creative. Write "Support People Not Fossil Fuels" on a kite. Draw a dead canary on your facemask. Collect pinecones and spell out "Love and Rage" in the road.

Make an Andy Goldsworthy worth leaving the house for.

And soak up some sun while you're at it.

<3,

Cory

xrmass.org

ps Happy Solstice everyone.

Check out all the art and columns of June's Boston Compass at www.issuu.com/bostoncccompass