Gwenn-Aël LYNN is a Franco-American transdisciplinary artist who has recently made the above logo for the RTC. We asked him a few questions about his work and what inspired this mixed medium logo.
1. What inspires you as an artist? Is your work particularly informed by nature?
GL: My work takes on many forms and addresses several embedded issues, but mostly I engage with notions of identity and hegemony through the senses (the senses of proximity, not just vision and hearing). Most of my work actually does not deal with nature that much. Especially since I have a critical approach to the concept of nature as I believe nature is a Western concept that only serves to distance ourselves from what we consider “other” to us as a species, namely what we call “nature.” For a much better problematization of what I have just outlined, I recommend L’Anti-nature by Clément Rosset, a contemporary French philosopher. To my knowledge, this book has not been translated in English. And with this, you are also welcome to peruse this online interview where I engage at length with this concept. See more with this Interview with Gwenn-Aël LYNN on the Concept of Nature.
I do have, however one project that explicitly explores renewable energy. It is a performance I did during a German residency, and you are welcome to browse it here. See http://www.gwennaellynn.com/performance-rund-um-den-wind/
If you read German you can also find a text discussing it in this collected volume: Transfer No 3. Beiträge zur Kunstvermittlung. Versuche im Zwischenraum. Experimentelle Kunstvermittlung im digitalen Zeitalter. Dokumentation der Tagung vom November 2003. ISBN 3-937828-00-1 And you can order this volume here: http://www.stiftung-kuenstlerdorf.de/publikationen/
Finally, I would like to point out that, like many other conscious artists, my activism and my artistic practice do not always overlap. Sometimes, I need time and support to create ambitious projects, at other times I do guerilla type of interventions, or much more spur of the moment type of performances. When I work on long term ambitious projects, I can get frustrated at the inadequacy of these projects to respond to urgent issues. That’s when I turn to activism. However, I do not think that one supersedes the other. We (as a society) need both types of projects: the time consuming long term ones, and the shorter more reactive ones. Finally, there is actually an entire spectrum of possibilities. It is not just about long term and short term, it’s about all the increments of time and resources between these two ends of the continuum.
As Claire Pentecost (a well known Chicago artist) says: “sometimes I am an artist, sometimes I am an activist, and sometimes I am both. It depends on the situation”.
2. What inspired the logo? Can you tell us a little bit about the logo?
GL: The logo was inspired by the name of the group (Rising Tide) its location (Chicago) and their mission: confronting the root causes of global warming. I would like to point out that we made collective decisions. Though I made the logo, we decided together what would go in it. I made several proposals to the group that eventually filtered down to what you have now. In our region, scientists predict that our winters will become colder than they already are. Global warming being a global phenomenon, that has different local consequences, we thought that a frozen engulfing tidal wave would summarize our local climate predicament. So that’s how I came up with a frozen wave looming over the Chicago skyline. The name contains “tide” so a wave, preferably a large wave, was self evident. I think it is both about the looming climate crisis, but also about the potential of a massive, global, social movement that will overtake the diktat of finances (symbolized again by the Chicago Skyline). A frozen wave is not still forever. It is energy potential waiting to be unleashed, once it melts it will engulf everything. Another thread was Chicago’s meaning. There is debate among historians, but they have reached some consensus that chicagou was a “frenchization” of a Miami-Illinois word naming the smell of alum canadensis (wild garlic), though there is debate about whether, it was alum canadensis or Allium tricoccum, or even other forms of Allium. [see for instance http://www.todayifoundout.com/index.php/2013/07/how-chicago-got-its-name/ ] Hence, I decided to have a backdrop of raining wild garlic (alum canadensis). The techniques are a mixture of scanned drawings, photo montage, and digital rendering. I have always been process oriented, and therefore always let the process be visible in my work. In this particular case it gives a certain “punk” quality that I think befits very well who we are at Rising Tide Chicago: a self organized, all volunteer run, direct action group of activists, with a set of principles. While some of us may have anarchist sympathies, Rising Tide Chicago, as a group, does not identify as an anarchist entity. However, we agreed that a punk aesthetics would reflect this sympathy.
4. Why do you support the RTC?
GL: It is a combination of conviction and personal encounters. I believe that the work RTC does is vital in confronting global climate change that governments are completely inadequate to address. And particularly the US government. Need I remind you that, per capita, America still has the largest carbon footprint of all the nations? People looking for excuses are always quick to point to China, but they are over a billion Chinese, whereas there are only 360 millions Americans, so when you do the math, each individual American, that includes you and I, pollutes more than each individual Chinese: http://tinyurl.com/q6c3e5v. It will take a radical transformation of American society and values to curb carbon emission. If the US alone reigned in their emissions, they would, first, set an example, two, significantly contribute to harnessing global warming, regardless of what the rest of the world does, especially since the rest of the world does not pollute half as much as the US. Clearly using China as a scapegoat (which our media and government love to do) is not going to solve the problem. And of course, corporations, and various lobbies (fossil fuels, transgenic industry, the military-industrial complex etc) simply don’t care about the damage they wreck on communities. Most of these corporations are owned and operated by very old people who will be dead before global warming hits us full blast, so of course they don’t care about the consequences of their acts. All that matters is their very short term profits. Governments follow along the dictates of the business class, so we cannot expect much from them. I think every recent generation witnessed the birth of radical environmental organizations; to name a few examples: in the 70’s it was Greenpeace (who had a radical birth to say the least) then in the 80’s we had Earth First, and at the dawn of the 21st century it was Rising Tide and, just a little more recently (late aughts): Deep Green Resistance. Each generation has become more radical than the previous ones, because our self appointed leaders are simply not paying attention. We cannot count on them. We have to do the job ourselves, or at least apply enough pressure where it’s needed to effect policy change. For all these reasons I chose to support a radical environmental organization because we need radical solutions. Clearly, status-quo solutions are non existent.
5. Do you plan on doing any more work with RTC in the future
GL: Of course this is an ongoing collaboration.
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