Expressions of the Climate Emergency
Making fashion a form of protest, Kurtumulus employs her design skills in Amazon-themed performance art. In one YouTube video, she represents the Amazon on a T-shirt by painting a pair of lungs — one half of which teems with life while its fire-consumed complement forebodes unparalleled destruction. For the first half of her video, Kurtumulus paints the life-affirming lung, which she comprises of mossy green tree leaves and surrounds with a hummingbird and butterflies. Its pastel colors induce mysticism in the vast and still much undiscovered biodiversity of the Amazon. The second half of the video, however, exposes the fragility of this beauty when after intersplicing her work with footage of the Amazon’s destruction, Kurtumulus’ second lung combusts into flames that leap across her chest. The work portrays the sharp contrast between the Amazon that viewers, present and future, may know — one of life or death — and challenges them to pick a side in the battle for its conservation. From a tranquil tone overlaid with peaceful bird chirps, the music in the second half of the video quickens in pace and strikes a tone of alarm, fomenting a palpable sense of anxiety in viewers that matches Kurtumulus’s race to finish the T-shirt design. Wearing her shirt, Kurtumulus coughs against her arm as if unable to stop herself and puts on a gas mask, staring straight into the camera. The moment issues a far more direct challenge to her audience — with the planet’s lungs at risk, so are her viewers’.
This urge to awaken public consciousness is not unique to Rockman. Increasingly, artists are cutting across mediums to disrupt artistic convention; it is not only the visceral imagery, but also the symbolic weight of their work that captures viewers’ attention, forcing them to face the climate emergency. Increasingly, artists are using their work to recultivate a sense of curiosity and wonder in the natural world, while also using themes of endangerment and extinction to convey the unparalleled threat posed by humans to this world's existence.
In many ways, the Red Brigade defies description. One article published about Flood the Seaport describes the group as an “international theatrical movement that attempts to draw attention to the climate crisis.” While this description captures what the Red Brigade is at its most basic level, its practices are far more nuanced. The surprising universality behinds its radical use of bodies as an expressive medium also compels public consciousness. Rather than warmly invite people into the climate movement, the Red Brigade forces them to confront the reality of the climate emergency with a challenge to use their own bodies in this artistic resistance.