Image: SA Artists for Climate Action, Climate Badges, installation view, 2020. Photograph: Sam Roberts.
Zoe Freney is a South Australian artist, arts writer and educator. She is also one of the primary members of local artist collective, ‘SA Artists for Climate Action’ who founded #climatebadges in 2019 as a public incentive for artists concerned about climate action.
A selection of the collective’s badges, letters, and social media posts are featured in Our Future in the Landscape, an exhibition exploring urban and ecological responses to climate change, currently on display at the Adelaide Town Hall. In this interview with curator Steph Cibich, Zoe and the collective discuss the collaborative nature of the project and its ability to inspire positive climate action in our community.
Our Future in the Landscape is presented as part of the ART WORKS 2020 Emerging Curator Program, delivered by Guildhouse in partnership with the City of Adelaide.
Image: SA Artists for Climate Action, Posters, selection of badges, letters and social media posts by artists and recipients involved in the #climatebadge project, 2020. Photograph: Sam Roberts.
How would you describe SA Artists for Climate Action?We are a collective of South Australian artists who became discouraged and concerned about the lack of visible action on the climate emergency within the arts locally and nationally. We wanted to instigate positive action as a way to encourage and empower other artists to use their existing skills and knowledges to make positive statements. The idea was to encourage artists to send Climate Badges to those they saw taking action against climate change. These could be people from the grass roots level to celebrities. Artists were encouraged to send letters of thanks with their Climate Badges, and to share their badges and recipient responses on Instagram.
Can you briefly describe the sample of works featured in this exhibition and what ideas led to their production?The works on display in this exhibition come directly from the Climate Badges action. These include posters made from collages of Instagram screen shots, showing the diversity of the badges made by many artists. We had a great response from artists and badge recipients and wanted to show the extent of these in the posters. The great thing about Climate Badges as a project is that it combined social media impact with artworks and actions in the real world.
The badges are sent to recipients who are seen be doing positive climate action. How do you decide what badge to make and who to send it to?We asked artists to use their existing skills to make badges. This way, we were recognising that most artists are busy people who may not have the means to commit to climate actions that took them away from studio practice or paid work for long periods. We left it very open for artists to nominate their badge recipients, with the guidelines that it should be someone who is making change. Some of the climate warriors selected to be badge recipients include Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young; State Greens MP Mark Parnell; local champion for the environment and Greens candidate Major ‘Moogy’ Summer AM; and further afield, Prince Charles; and David Attenborough. One of the badges displayed in the exhibition will be sent to Jacinda Ardern when the exhibition is over.
What kind of response have you received from the community?The responses from both artists and badge recipients on #climatebadges on Instagram was very positive. Many artists were pleased to have a way they could contribute to a cause they cared greatly about but felt powerless to contribute meaningfully otherwise. Many artists have received positive feedback from their badge recipients, who have posted images of themselves wearing their badges on social media or sent letters of thanks via the mail. The tactility of the badges and notes of thanks that have changed hands in real life makes a contrast to the ephemeral nature of the social media platform. We hoped this would be an ongoing project but were overwhelmed by the need for badges of thanks for those who stood up to fight for the environment against the background of last summer’s huge bush fire events. There has been little activity on the #climatebadges since the onset of COVID-19 and associated restrictions so maybe the project has run its course. Or perhaps, as the economy begins to recover, we will need the badges again more than ever, to recognise that we don’t want to see environmental protection sacrificed to economic recovery.
Image: SA Artists for Climate Action, Letter from David Attenborough, 2020. Photograph: Sam Roberts.