For the art I’m making for my PhD project, one way I am looking towards the future is through a Solarpunk lens. So what is Solarpunk and how have I been using it (even before I knew the term?) Solarpunk has grown out of many movements and is similar to many others, but overall it is looking to create futures that are sustainable and just. How do we get there from here, without handwavy magical tech that comes to save us?

For my purposes, Solarpunk is an optimistic but realistic way of looking for ways of getting to a future where more people and non-human beings thrive. Climate change is happening, but what can we do to mitigate it, move past through it, live in a future where it has happened? It isn’t just about the stories of the future, but finding paths to get there.

A Solarpunk Manifesto says: “Solarpunk is a vision of a future that embodies the best of what humanity can achieve: a post-scarcity, post-hierarchy, post-capitalistic world where humanity sees itself as part of nature and clean energy replaces fossil fuels” (The Solarpunk Community, no date). In Solarpunk: Notes toward a manifesto, Flynn says, “Solarpunk is about finding ways to make life more wonderful for us right now, and more importantly for the generations that follow us – i.e., extending human life at the species level,rather than individually” (Flynn, 2014).

I think that Solarpunk is a tool as much as anything. It needs to be combined with other tools to envision better futures and work towards them. If Solarpunk excludes BIPOC, queer, disabled, and other communities, not only in the content but in the making, it is to its own detriment. In the two part essay “In Search for Afro-Solarpunk,” Rob Cameron says, “I believe that when combined, the alchemy of these two sub-genres [Afrofuturism and Solarpunk} will produce an elixir that is medicinal to Afrofuturism, lifesaving to solarpunk, and healing to all who create in orexplore their shared spaces” (Cameron, 2019)

So, what of my work has fit into this world in some way or another? I’m glad you asked 🙂 Three of the works I created for Secondhand Market, 2178 could fit. The works were supposedly for sale at this secondhand market, with an audio tout talking about the things you could pick up.

a vertical cylinder with text in the middle and a button on top

Spice Combinator, 2019, Found Objects—With the Spice Combinator, you can have a whole spice rack in one space saving device! By mixing different yeasts using molecular 3D printing, you can select from dozens of your favorite tastes.

A gas mask with a tube running to a box with light inside

Bio-Synthetic Filter, 2020, found objects–The main unit is carried by a handy strap and contains a bio-synthetic “lung” that pumps and filters. The air then passes through an activated carbon filter, a HEPA filter, and several others before arriving fresh for you to breathe! All this unit needs is a slight wipe and a refill of bio-gel and you’ll feel like you are living in the distant mountains. 

Three bottles of various makes and sizes with tubes and wires running around. The middle bottle has water, air bubbles, and light

Personal Algae Farm, 2019; Found Objects, cast resin, pumps, electronics–Tired of running to the market every time you need some more algae? Want to grow your own custom varieties? Maybe your local market doesn’t carry the varieties you remember from back on the sea-farm. With the Personal Algae Farm, you have everything you need to start growing everything from blue green to red to small brown kelps. The purple tank allows you to see the algae but blocks enough light that you chose the light color for optimal growth of your favorite types. Wakame anyone? 

red gravely image with test up front that says "slowly a normal life was scratched out of the dirt on this red planet"

Aral, Mars; 2020, 10.5 minutes, HD video–a tale set in three times and places: the Aral Sea/past, Dubai/present, and Mars/future. It tells the story of water use and environmental change through these vignettes. Shot in several countries, it tracks the disappearance of the sea, the rise of Dubai, and our future life on Mars. It is shot in a documentary style with slow shots and written text. It is both cautionary and hopeful. It paints a story that is at times—dystopian, utopian, and normalized. How is this one Solarpunk? Well, it probably isn’t, but maybe adjacent. We learn lessons from the past and move towards a future that is more equitable and sustainable, even if some of us now live on Mars.

Mycelial Meshing, 2018, Interactive Installation (steel pipes, concrete, lighting, sensors, infrasound system), 4.8 x 5 x 6 meters (variable)

This one is definitely just solarpunk adjacent. It deals with mycelial networks, the communications between plants and fungi. It places you in their world, makes you feel slightly out of place and slightly confused as to what is happening. It is also looking at human networks like infrastructure but infrastructure is important to a better future. Flynn says “There’s an oppositional quality to solarpunk, but it’s an opposition that begins with infrastructure as a form of resistance” (Flynn, 2014).

Citations

Cameron, R., (2019). In Search of Afro-Solarpunk, Part 1: Elements of Afrofuturism. [Online]. Available at https://www.tor.com/2019/10/29/in-search-of-afro-solarpunk-part-1-elements-of-afrofuturism/. [Accessed on 07/12/2020]

Cameron, R., (2019). In Search of Afro-Solarpunk, Part 2: Social Justice is Survival Technology. [Online]. Available at https://www.tor.com/2019/10/30/in-search-of-afro-solarpunk-part-2-social-justice-is-survival-technology/. [Accessed on 07/03/2021]

Flynn, A., (2014). Solarpunk: Notes toward a manifesto. [Online]. Available at https://hieroglyph.asu.edu/2014/09/solarpunk-notes-toward-a-manifesto/. [Accessed on 07/03/2021]

Hamilton, J., (2017). Explainer: ‘solarpunk’, or how to be an optimistic radical. The Conversation [Online]. Available at http://theconversation.com/explainer-solarpunk-or-how-to-be-an-optimistic-radical-80275. [Accessed on 07/03/2021]

Hamilton, J., (2020). Discovering the Rainbow: Solarpunk Embodies an Optimism Towards the Future that our Society Needs. Milwaukee Independent. Benjamin Kantarovich. [Online]. Available at http://www.milwaukeeindependent.com/syndicated/discovering-rainbow-solarpunk-embodies-optimism-towards-future-society-needs/. [Accessed on 20/11/2020]

Older, D. J., (2017). Sunvault: Stories of Solarpunk and Eco-Speculation. Upper Rubber Boot Books.

Rusche, A., et al., (2020). ‘Solarpunk: New Seeds from the Ashes of Cyberpunk’. FutureCon: FutureCon 2020. Available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dg7IwYwJZXs.

Springett, J., (2017). SOLARPUNK : A REFERENCE GUIDE – Solarpunks – Medium. [Online]. Available at https://medium.com/solarpunks/solarpunk-a-reference-guide-8bcf18871965. [Accessed on 07/03/2021]

The Solarpunk Community, (no date). A Solarpunk Manifesto (English) – ReDes – Regenerative Design. [Online]. Available at http://www.re-des.org/a-solarpunk-manifesto/. [Accessed on 07/03/2021]

Ulibarri, S., et al., (2018). Glass and Gardens: Solarpunk Summers. World Weaver Press.

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