The Convergence Podcast #041 Efflam Mercier
2:38PM Nov 11, 2021
Hey everyone, and welcome to another episode of the convergence podcast. I'm your host Siddhartha Valluri. And this is going to be episode 41. With Efflam Mercier, we went really in depth into Efflam passion for Solarpunk themes, and how creating new narratives in storytelling is important. They also share ideas about cooperatives and artists, collectives, and how these organizational structures can help the upcoming generation of artists. This episode was packed with a lot of information and a lot of knowledge. So I hope you stick around till the end of the episode, and get a lot of value from it. So let's go. So thank you once again, for coming on the podcast. I remember listening to your podcast way back in for having me when you're welcome. I think you were on Maciej Kuciara's podcast, like quite a few years back at Art Cafe.
And I think I was so embarassed about how many times I said "like" that I was too embarassed to listen to it again.
Oh, yeah. That's interesting. That was probably my first encounter with Yeah. And it's been great seeing the amount of work you've done since then. And you're quite prolific artists, and you've been working for quite a while now. So excited to go deeper into your thought process today.
Really excited to be able to share whatever I can. I'm,
I'm curious, what were your original inspirations that drew you towards art, because the kind of work that you do right now, is quite focused towards the climate activism and the solar punk styles and themes that are derived from that style of thinking, but I'm not too sure that those things existed when you were probably getting inspired to do art.
Um, actually, it did. And that's a very, very good question. So one of my first actually wanting to be a graphic novel artists, like a comic book or manga, you know, like, I just loved, like, Dragonball Z, I love you know, all the all the, you know, French, like, BD (bande desinee, french for comic strip) the classics, you know, there was like the Jodorovsky universe, you know, universe with Moebius (jean Giraud), and Jodorovsky, Metabarons, which, and so, there's like plenty of amazing material. But I think there wasn't much solar punk. I think there was like maybe one TV show where like, the Earth was like, slightly destroyed. And like it was polluted, I think that inspired me to make like solar punk little graphic novels. And I submitted some of them to contest and, like, I, I won one, because nobody else showed up. Showing up is very important.
That's a very good point is, yeah,
if you show up and nobody else show up, you win. So it's, but I remember for that I got the opportunity to, like, meet an art graphic novel artist named Bruno Le Floch'. And he was like, very attached to the peninsula, the Breton landscape, which is next to France, on the Northwest. And, yeah, I think like marrying the two is this idea of like, I love this local place where I'm from. And this place has a history of disasters, either natural disasters that have been caused by climate change, or like the climate has changed, or the relationship of people to the land has changed, or it has been a natural disaster. And in the case of my fishing community (Portsall), right, where I was born, and kind of like was raised on my life, is where shell ordered Amoco Cadiz oil to kind of transit and they take, like the crash, the super tanker with oil leaking all over the fish in the coast, in 1978, and it was shell and Amoco. Amoco eventually merged into Exxon Mobil, and shell, so those are companies that still exist today. And and so it's really this thing of like, I care about this place. And so I want to do art that is about this place, that kind of like is a representation of my love, for this local place. And yeah, like when you really go deep on the history of any place, you realize that any place has been used at some point, as an ecological quote, unquote, sacrifice zone, which means that the government or the corporation's just didn't care about the people and the creatures living there, to the point where it's just where they went, and they dump their hydrocarbon and petrochemicals. And so this is, this is definitely what my art wants to speak to. And what I was trying at first, is doing art based on kind of like random samplings of the world and random problems. And then I went back to the local now I'm trying to find ways to marry it right? while still being like perspective, because it's like, there's this notion of, hey, Maybe not my story to tell, you know. And, for example, I was working on this idea of urban farming and resiliency of food in Kampala, Uganda. But then that was like, Okay, well, maybe it's a story better told my, you know, a native native, perhaps. Exactly. And maybe I can, like provide a little funding for illustrations that talk about food resiliency, you know, and then that's, you know, that's better, or maybe like, there's internet funding now, it's like, you don't even need Yeah, you don't even need outside, you know, funding to kind of make those conversation happen.
I think, I agree with that, to an extent where people who are native to a certain location may be more well versed with maybe spreading that message better. But I think nowadays, people tend to take it to such an extent that they are unwilling to even talk about issues from some Yeah. Which is also not a good place to be. And I guess,
yeah, yeah. So yeah, I'm trying to I'm trying to find the balance and translate, truthful and not like, you know, speak over other cultures and your struggles. Especially when, you know, there's a level of struggle where, you know, there's this notion of, are you like a person who's like, comfortable right now who's doing environmentalism, or your person who's like, who's actually being harmed by those corporations who's doing environmentalism? And those are two very different, like, one is survival based. And one is like comfort and the idea of like nature as a thing separate, right? Versus the idea of like, no, no, what if the city is a nature and right now, it is a polluted nature, and we don't want to live in it, you know? So it's a very much this kind of, it's kind of,
yeah, that's an interesting point, actually. Because especially as artists, sometimes we always look at nature as an aesthetic, not as something that it is actually in real life, because we're just looking at it. perspective, not from a reality perspective.
Yeah, so is there like, if you I, you know, I love like walking down the street and watching, like abandoned spaces, and how tall the grass grows. And it's funny because the landscapers somehow, like one time they cut the grass all around, but there was a plot that was unmanaged. And because it was unmentioned beginning wilderness, a year or two, and you could tell the length of the grass and I was like, literally, if you do not constantly cut nature, nature comes back very, very quickly. And ecosystems with especially. Okay, that's an important story, story of stewardship, right? Because there's a very prevalent story, I don't know if it's neoliberalism or capitalism, what it is, but it's the story that like humans are the virus, and that like, we ought to use technology to dominate nature, but it's terrible what we do it, but it's okay. Because we're humans, or we're different in nature. And no, like, we're not different in nature, we're part of it. And therefore, when we hurt nature to an extraordinary extent, we've, you know, extractive industries, you know, smelting and metals and all that stuff. When we do that, we do this damage to ourselves, and we won't be able to use technology to repair this damage, you know, and it shows up in the incidence of asthma, with people who live in the proximity of oil rigs, due to benzene pollution, it shows up in the way that yeah, like, people get all kinds of autoimmune disease due to, you know, all this roundup, you know, petrochemicals and stuff like this. It really, it comes from this problem of seeing nature as a separate entity, instead of thinking that like nature is in your city is just struggling to come out of the concrete.
Right? Yeah, that's a good way to put it. I guess. That's when I mean, thinking about it as artists and designers is important, because so when I was studying architecture, sustainable architecture is such an important subject that's being developed right now. And there are a lot of architects working on integrating nature with their buildings and creating Lactarius forming within the structures that they are building for the next decades. So as artists, how are you you know, trying to spread your message and contribute in a positive manner?
Yeah, I actually, instead of, you know, talking from my own words, I thought I could share some words from the members of the artists versus extinction group shots. I've asked some members to share some message. And so Shen Yin. She writes, "I think playing the capitalism game is unfortunately what we artists have to do. We all have bills to pay and people to take care of. However, we can sell art and other products that educates, informs and sways our audience towards a more eco friendly future" end quote, Solarpunk could be an example. Right, so then she continues quote, I personally believe in investing our teenagers now to equip them with the tools to solve the crisis when they grew up. Most teenagers are victims of a global crisis and they're already passionate but saving it, all they need is the education and time. end quote.
Yeah, that's an interesting point, I just wanted to go a bit deeper into that aspect of like, we are part of the system that exists. Because at the end of the day you need to eat, you need to pay your bills, whether you're an artist or in any other field for that matter. And I guess, storytelling becomes a very important part there, right? Because the kinds of stories that we see in movies or in comics that become part of our reality in our mind. And so as artists really more the way we see the world exactly. So you trying to portray Solarpunk visions, allows you to spread your message in a certain manner through that heart.
Yeah, and hopefully, it's also that like, lands and narrative frames, specifically, because you, like, let's say, there's any situation in the world is constantly climate change, right? So like, you have a natural disaster, you have to evacuate or not evacuate? That's usually a decision you have like refugees, do you welcomed in the best way you can? Or are you going to be horrible and just leave them camps and stuff like this, like, all the governments of today do. Um, and when faced with the situation, the lens that we have are horrible today, because the media that we have consumed has been horrible. if you actually look at the content that we consume, like, some of it has, like, eco fascist themes, where it's like, you know, he like, like, the Thanos finger snap is , good. Because the whales are coming back like that, you know, it's a Depopulation narrative, like, you know, it's, I don't know, maybe it's just my interpretation of it. But I think we have to be extremely careful about, how do we portray narratives of ecological change, and the relation of that to population, because it will be used at some point in wars or in horrible justification. And justification is important things in that. You just make it justify that, like, you have some people surviving, and some people not surviving climate change, you know, and due to the overwhelming like, inequality, nature of it, or where it hits and who caused it. It's like, it's an unacceptable thing, obviously, totally unacceptable. And there's definitely this idea of like, I think that artists should communicate the impossibility of the system to keep going, because everybody knows that the system can't keep going. But I think maybe if the message is So, you know, obvious that like the civilization has finished, that we can then get to work on being honest about like, what does deep adaptation look like? What does, you know, extreme scale down over the fossil fuel industry within 10 years looks like?
How do you create a good story or narrative within this? Because for people to consume something as entertainment called, it needs to engage?
Yeah, yeah. So that's the part I definitely struggle with unique characters, is what I'm finding out. So that's why I'm working on characters, and character development, you definitely need it because the ideas are too abstract by themselves, right? For most people, and that makes sense that the idea isn't to extract I think, um, I often say that it is our refusal to engage with the problem of climate change in a complex manner. That is the reason why complexity is breaking down. So when you look at like a complex, like, you know, supply chain, we are not willing to engage with climate change in a complex manner. So therefore, climate change is breaking down the complexity of civilization, leading to collapse, right? So with the shipping problem, for example, it's that like, well, you have a pandemic, and you haven't protected your workers. And you haven't compensated them, right. So you can't tell nobody wants to work, you know, and you haven't had worker safety. So as a result, nobody wants to work in shipping, right? Like, there's too much injury, too much death, nobody wants to do it for that company. And as a result, you have an increase, I think it's like 4 fold increase, like fourfold increase over the price of container shipping. And that has dramatic impacts on the entire, you know, supply chain of capitalism. And again, it is because the worker safety was not a part of the equation, like capitalism was unable to perceive this information about the system. Like that's really that's not that's very pathetic. This this system we have today, and it's unable to perceive the most crucial information about safety, but I'm wondering, Do people still want to do this?
I guess, when you put it across that way, the first thing that genuinely comes to mind is that most people are just trying to, you know, survive and live their day to day Yeah, sir. And you are obviously really invested in this personally. So that's why you research and you Know these facts. But if I look, if I think about just the average artist, and designer who perhaps want to contribute in a positive manner, but they are too stuck in their loop to just make money to survive, how can they actually start thinking about these stories, where they can think about these stories in a manner to aid their artistic career at the same time, which allows them to live a good life?
Yeah, I mean, you know, you always have the possibility of making your personal IP that is eco punk, your portfolio pieces, right? That's one option. So like, you know, you're still outputting labor that is intent for the capitalist, you know, economy, but you're still infusing it with all of your, like, personal ideas and philosophies. So I think that's cool and laudable. Um, the other possibilities is, you know, you could do a Patreon and get funding and get support for doing that kind of work. I support a few patrons that, you know, do this kind of like eco eco art, there's not to many, so, yeah, there's still plenty space for solar punk. Exactly. There's still a lot of space for solar punk Patreon, I believe, for solar punk video games, like it's a blue ocean, right, so let's talk about Blue Ocean. And, like, if there are any VCs listening to this call, we don't want your money, but we kind of do. It's a very complicated relationship. We don't want we want your money, but not your ideas. And this is how you will make more money. So trust that
you own the money, but the freedom to actually be able to execute the vision. Yeah,
yeah. But obviously, you know, I don't want to ask that. So I self-fund and you know, find ways but it's, yeah, it's a, it's definitely a complicated thing, where any amount of funding or money that will come to you will come with a certain level of you can't really criticize too much, because that money has come from somewhere. And very rarely has that money come from somewhere, like 100%, clean. You know, like, even some of the companies that I worked for, like, I know, some of the sources of the funding, and I'm like, yeah, i That's why I resign, you know, I do not wish for my paycheck, any percentage of my paychecks come from the oil industry, that's absolutely unacceptable. For me, I have signed no fossil fuel pledge. So I'm pretty much contractually required to quit, you know, and I think it's a very serious thing that we have, we have to start to hold each other, and maybe not hold each other accountable. Because that sounds like a Twitter mob, you know, coming at you. But like, like, as friends, like who care, you know, don't be like, don't be a climate denier, it's it's gonna hurt you and your career and your friends in the planet, it's gonna hurt everybody. It's not like, you know, I think it's not worth this
is where like, creating those passion projects, and merging it with these themes is a good idea. Because then you're funding it yourself, essentially. And you're not accountable to anybody else in terms of what the messaging should be like. And then you have the freedom to perhaps collaborate with like minded people, and then kind of develop that project further. And I guess you'll be quite a bit of that.
Yeah, but then there's the question of like, okay, what legal structure? Do we want to structure this work? And not? Do I want, like, do we want, right, this idea of " what if there's no boss?" And what if, and, you know, you make decisions, democratically, instead of just the founder makes that decision, right? Which means whoever has the money, so whoever has made money in, you know, and that money, again, was not clean. Even the money I made was not fully clean, you know, I couldn't quit fast enough, you know, maybe one paycheck had 1% of shell, you know, and so no, no money is clean. So the better ways to do it, is to do it on no money. So like, you know, figure out ways to do the project for cheap. Or, again, you figure out this way of structuring the work. So if you have a founder, and the founder is putting putting down money or asking VCs to put down the money, you're asking a bank to put down money. Essentially, they will feel like because they took that financial risk, they deserve the labor of all of the workers in perpetuity. And all of their, you know, I mean, all of their labor, just in exchange for monthly pay tied to labor. And the problem is they get all of the IP value in perpetuity, they are no longer workers. You just get the salary for the time you're working there, right, you don't get rents for the IP, but the IP is a property, it's like a house, you get to rent from it, you know, and so, like, right now, we have situations where with firms, you know, which is the structure with a founder, it's kind of like landlords, you know, and I don't like that situation and housing, and I don't like the situation and employment either. And so an alternative model is cooperative worker cooperative. And this idea that you own the cooperative together. And so you have you have board of directors, which elected, you know, within the company, and you can make decisions via consensus mechanism 75%. And there's this, you know, there's this a often thing that people say, well, cooperatives are cool, but decisions are slow. Well, the problem is, you're not making enough decisions, you know, maybe you're not voting enough, you know, voting often enough, there's no culture of voting. The problem is, we vote once every four years. And we argue about it. And it cost about a billion dollars worth of debate and lost, you know, time. And so if that's your metric for what voting looks like, if that's your frame of reference for what voting looks like, of course, you're going to think that voting in a cooperative is slow, the decision making in a cooperative is slow. But I have one also counter argument, even if it's slow, it could be better decisions. The reason why is because when your workers don't have any financial transparency over, like, what are how well the company is doing, right? That's the fundamental metric that the workers rarely ever have, the workers are kept in the dark about how well the company is doing. And that means that it's not able as a collective to make the best possible decisions, because you're relying on one guy, and I say, guy, because it's usually a guy, it's usually a white guy, you know, and, and, and it's a, it's a limited perspective, no matter how they woke you try to be it's a limited perspective. And if your system is a pyramid, and you have a limited perspective, your system, your people at the bottom can be as diverse as you want. You can have as much gender diversity as you want, it's not gonna help, because the person at the top isn't making all the decision and has all these biases, and is not listening to other people. How how, so that's why Yeah, go ahead. No,
I mean, it in an ideal situation, it would be that way, right? Where the people working in a very, very large studio of are privy to all the decisions that are being made at the top level of the company? How often do you encounter artists who are genuinely interested in making those kinds of decisions, and also living with the risks and rewards that come with those decisions? Because I do, I do agree with you, where quite often we are in the dark in terms of how those decisions are being taken. But how many people are really willing to stick with those decisions and live with the consequences as well?
Yeah, and I think, so I have I have like, two thoughts about this. One, I feel like, I mean, if, if, if you want to live like economic liberation, or freedom, liberation of people, you're gonna have to seize the means of production, even if that means learning. How do things work? You know, how are sausage getting made? You know, how are video games? Made? What's, what's GIT and GitHub? What's a repository? What's source control? What's, you know, what are the programming language do people use? What is C++, C sharp, Lua? You know, all this stuff? And not necessarily to learn it like to be a professional in it, but enough to talk and to know, how do you interact with other professionals in terms of like the workout put, like, do you output a mesh? Do you output like static file, do output a script, do output, you know, a build of a game? And I think learning all those phases of production is what will liberate us from the kind of like economic control of firms and founders and, like, we see people who code or who have intergenerational wealth control everything.
Now, that's a good point. I mean, understanding the supply chain and the way a product is made, allows you to understand it at a much deeper level, and perhaps even gives you the confidence to create your own projects, because you know, the subject matter at such a deep level.
Yeah. And like, the other day is totally random, like somebody on the discord server was saying, like, oh, no, like, my favorite tool to, to, like, make something, you know, went offline. And then I went on GitHub, and I saw there was a Docker image. And then I heard like, Google Cloud offers three service on another web page, totally random. And then my mind connected the two, I was like, Okay, I got free service to host the Docker image that that person said, it's not offline, so I can have it online, you know, I can bring it back online or service, right. And that's the means of production, it can be really, really simple. It was five or six commands, and they were all listed on GitHub, it's really easy. Like anyone can do this. You don't have to pay monthly service or anything anymore. Like Photoshop, you don't have to pay, you know, any, like, there's many alternatives already that are open source, or you can build or you can host for free on Google machine. So yeah, there's just a lot of solutions. Even like, essentially, if you don't have a computer, Google will give you one for free. Or they will give you a free $100 Like a virtual computer. If you know a couple of codes. You can do a like a VNC into it. So you have a virtual desktop into computer in the cloud. It has a GPU. So when we think about access, like we think that the studio you know, like purchases, machines and stuff for us. and does a lot of things for the artists. But I think during the pandemic, a lot of stuff was revealed, you know, like the structural inequalities was was revealed and the the studio like the physical office, like the contradictions about it was were really revealed during the pandemic, which is like, what exactly is the Office for? and WHO is it for? And so I think those conversations are really important and interesting.
Yeah, I was actually just about to come to the whole aspect of working from home during this last one and a half, two year period. I mean, it's coming to two years at this point. It was almost drilled into the employee's head that you need to work in the studio because of the work environment so called, but it's obviously been proven that the biggest of biggest projects have been successfully executed with employees, or artists and designers working from home, I guess, the dichotomy that I feel over here is that there is a certain element of missing communication with your peers that people do tend to lose. And that is, there is some value to that. But it doesn't need to be something that's happening on a daily basis, I suppose.
Yeah, definitely. Yeah, I, I've done the model where you, you kind of like fly or take the train to all meet up, you know, and then you like, maybe once a year or something, and that that, you know, like, works. But I think it's like, I think like people when they're face to face, I don't know, maybe there's something they try to help each other out. And maybe because of the latency, you can't connect the eyes, or something very, very direct like this where like, you know, like, the brains are, like, directly connected to the eyes, and you can maybe send some, you know, information that we don't really perceive it on the webcam is not present, you know, it's micro information. And maybe that's what leads to, like people online being very cold to each other. That's something where, I think people have in remote work have fired employees in ways that they would have never fired a employee. I think so there's a level of dehumanization, that is related to the use of video, that definitely bothers me. And I don't think the answer is like a super 4d, you know, representation, you know, temporal mesh, you know, deformed and motion captured in real time, I don't think that's what the future looks like. This is what Zuckerberg tries to convince you, the future looks like so that he can rent you, you know, these machines. So you can rent your cloud stuff and make you pay or, you know, stay on there forever. I think the reality and the possibilities is that, we have to have much more imagination than this. It could be like a symbolic representation of your mood or like, like that you self report enough? I mean, it could be there many possibilities, like there are many, many possibilities, essentially,
I think, for me personally, one of the best experiences during the pandemic for communication was actually clubhouse because it allowed real time communication with people from across the world, in different industries, different fields. And even though there was no video of just because we could hear people in real time, and it felt like it was like a community discussing things together. That really did add quite a lot of value quite a lot of times. I'm curious to know more about the artists versus extinction. Is it? Is it like a collective of artists? Is it a company that you all started together? What is the philosophy behind it?
Yeah, so artists vs extinction is a group of artists network of friends who were already horrified after the landmark 2018 report of the internet Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. And we saw the Amazon fires as undeniable confirmation climate crisis, that the climate crisis is here, right. So you fast forward three years later, no one publicly denies climate change anymore. So you'd think we'd be celebrating them in this Discord server. But no, it's a little bit more insidious. It's a natural gas, branding itself as an improvement as a renewable source of energy, a clean source of energy, with barely an improvement over coal due to the methane emissions. So what artists scientists and communicators have to realize is that we are way beyond the information deficit model of change, where you assume that things aren't changing, because you haven't raised the awareness enough about the issue. And we're going to model change based on ending state capture by fossil fuel actors. So really, this idea of like, you have a disinformation plus path dependence, which means like, you know, they're lying about, you know, natural gas being like a renewable energy and they're also making us consume natural gas, right? So they are installing natural gas at night instead of a battery, and there's more subsidies for natural gas, which is a thermal plant, which you can pilot, rather than the been the battery pack, or like the risk of drought of the thermal power plants are ignored systemically, so in an unscientific manner, this is not good engineering, this will lead to catastrophe. And you would think in climate change, that we're just trying to raise awareness, but we're actually trying to fight state corruption. And I think I would say I would quantify artists, extinction as a group that , either has, where all of the artists have realized that there is one, there's a risk of collapse; ecological, biological, and to that, that what is causing the collapse is like state capture or corruption or like, essentially like unscientific ideas about what does the oil industry actually give us, you know, in return for all this extraction. And I think, on those two prong approach, that's where it can work. But I think we're way beyond the information deficit model change. So that's what we're up against. As a group of artists versus extinction, we've done virtual exhibitions with Tamara Chang, Sean Bodley, and Erel Matita. We've painted posters, the kind of art calling civilians to protect biodiversity against destruction. But there's also a need for pragmatic, closing design, closing design, I don't mean clothes that you wear, I mean closing as in you as you close something, it's the end. And it's the it's a practice where artists are practicing the art of saying goodbye to obsolete futures. That's what closing design means. And also the obsolete future is obviously the oil industry. And all like the attractiveness, you know, related to that. One of the reasons why, you know, it's an obsolete future is like the energy return on energy invested of the oil industry, which is that, you know, imagine like the history of oil, I don't know, if you've seen like, The Good, the Bad, and The Ugly, it was thoroughly
quite a while back, I can't recall at the moment, but
essentially, they're looking for a treasure, right, but the treasure is oil. And then at the end, they just just like, I think they shoot or they they knock something over and oil starts flowing from the ground, you know, it's just free, like, barely any technical labor was inputted from you, as a human to get mechanical energy that is stored in oil, that's really powerful. THat's how rose the thermo-industrial civilizations, like kind of like Rose there quickly, you know, at a rate that they drilled up from the ground, but like, that energy return used to be you put one barrel of work, like say, one year of just, you know, toiling there really, really hard every day, that's one barrel with mechanical energy, but you got 99 barrels out, that was your ratio at the time, it was a really, really good deal. But now it's more like one to seven with tar sands, which means that to get the same amount of oil, like use oil, net oil, you have to extract a lot more. So the, the intensiveness of the extraction per useful energy is much higher. And that's why it's an obsolete feature, it goes to infinity, which means like to extract the last gram, the last drop of oil, you would have to destroy the entire Earth. Right? This is when the efficiency hits zero, basically, you have to destroy the entire Earth to get the last drop. And we obviously have to stop before that. We all agree that we have to stop before that. But the the efficiency is already down from historical 1:99 to one to seven today. And and and governments and corporate, corporations are still continuing this plan. So that is definitely a dire situation,
I guess the first thing that comes to mind immediately is that, as an artist, the only way to counter the narrative is to tell better narratives that you have of your own and what possible visions that you have. As a group, Are you perhaps working on these visions, which you think are the alternative way to move forward? Because there's only so much that a person not involved in these companies or politics can do at a policy level? Because that's not what an artist job is at the end of the day. But you can tell better vision so what kind of stuff do you think? Yeah?
Well, there is a there's two things um, I think reputation really like the oil industry has a lot to lose from young people not wanting to work for them. So just talking about it is just valuable within itself because it will make workers a lot more expensive for the oil industry which will accelerate collapse, right. So there's a goal there is it there's a goal. Um, secondly, I think you can Yeah, represents an alternative future and also have a lot of imagination this alternative future, right so you have alternative futures like solar punk, where it's kind of like yeah, you have to ecology and you have all this like magic of technology, but you also bring back nature to like better than it is right now. You restore it to like At least like it wasn't the 80s or 60s, you know, I mean, like, like, bring it back and like rewild things and like, we strive to essentially be back from the brink, you know, from the brink of extinction, and turn the ship around. And there were many like visions for I think, one of the visions for it, that, to me is the most pragmatic and realistic and reassuring, is this idea that we could go back to 1960s level of consumption and electricity consumption and heating, and you could have 10 billion humans. To me, that's an extremely positive story. So that's a study that I read online. And yeah, it was showing that like, energy sufficiency means that what do you need to be comfortable, instead of being an excess, you know, and essentially, everybody can be comfortable. That's the message. sufficiency is a lot more materially permissive than opponents propose
other like existing pieces of fiction or literature that people can read through a story or a narrative, which subliminally puts this message across without coming across as like a technical paper, which, I'm pretty sure not everyone will have the patience to actually sit and read that.
Yeah, so that is a problem. We're, it's sort of like a, I don't know, if it's an insurmountable problem, but you have to be aware of the problem to actually try to work on in, which is that there's a information is either complex, and inaccessible, or like, not complex and accessible, basically. And it's sort of, you know, there's sort of like a curve of like, how many people are gonna read your thing versus how in depth actually is your writing/story. And a lot of climate science fiction, which is often called a CLi-fi, was written in the tradition of hard sci fi as a, which is nuts and bolts, spaceships and equations and orbital trajectories, and like moons colliding, and all this, all this stuff . And so I think a lot of writers have tried essentially approaching climate change with this hard scifi lens. And I think the result is that nobody has read it, right? Because it is so complex. What is the difference between your cli fi and a paper? Why would I read that? Like, why would I read dystopia? Right, instead of paying attention? So we actually need climate utopias, or rather climate Protopia? Right? So there is when I went to Monika Bielsky, who's working on the Protopia framework, which is like this idea of like, you know, it's not utopia or dystopia. It's kind of a future in work, right? It's in movement in the process of creation. And it's not one future. It's multiple futures. It's recognition of the multiple futures. And I'm just really inspired by all those visions. So I think they're more today, they're more like frameworks in two to three years, they're your favorite movies and films, this is the Eco punk cinematic universe coming for you. That's
a that's an interesting way to put it. Because let's be real not nobody can actually predict what a utopia could look like, whether it's like climate positive, or in a dystopian manner, what might happen, nobody actually knows. But these frameworks could be possibilities, which are stories in progress, where you don't know how things actually end up. And that's a more plausible way to tell a narrative of this kind. Yeah,
because all you have is, the, the presence and the belief that it will get better. That's really all you have. And we have to maybe yeah, have a framework of future making that essentially takes this into account, where you have the sort of, ideals of their little, I have trouble with, which is nations, and states, and all of these apparatus that have been, you know, motivated to, you know, revolt against kings and stuff. So they have, like, a history where, like, some of them have a good history, and people really are proud of these nations in these states. But to a certain point, when, you know, when like, 80% of the population lives in coastal cities, and you have sea level change, the artificial nature of borders and states is gonna be ridiculous. Like, you know, I mean, it's like, you're gonna have, I think, maybe due to racism and the classism of like, who has been really impacted by climate change, which means that like, essentially, the rich people can leave the city and leave their house behind, it doesn't matter. They think they're live, you know, their lives are worth more than house. And the people who are poor also think that it's just that they can't afford to act on that belief that their life is more valuable. And that's horrible, like think about that. They can't act on their belief that their life is more valuable than property. And that is a form of lack of freedom. That is definitely It needs to be unlocked for everybody to be safe from climate change. And I think this is something where, like, story we tell, it's the it's the financial model of the companies we create, you know, that allow people mobility. And it's also the way we think about housing in a way that people feel comfortable leaving their housing because you have to leave. Like, you have to leave everything behind and think about your in your life somewhere else.
This actually, you know, instantly reminded me about the movie Elysium where this aspect was played out in a story. My no way you could zero Yeah, the horror section. Oh, yeah. So something I wanted to talk about was in other design fields, apart from art, like, if you talk about product design, or architecture, fashion, there is quite a lot of emphasis about sustainable design practices at the educational level. Whereas in art, that's not something that's spoken about, because people are given the freedom to perhaps talk about whatever subject that they might want to talk about. Yeah. And hence, which is great, which is great in a way where you have the freedom to talk about the things that you want to talk about. But I guess the downside of that is that you don't really learn about what sustainable art. So how do you think people can actually are made more aware of those things?
Um, yeah, so there's a, there's a couple things I could talk about, about sustainability and art, I would say you can break it down into two main categories. Actually, you can say free, but let's say we forget the money for a second, we're going to talk about the other ones, which are interesting. Let's talk about the social aspect of art. Right now, it's really hard to make art and make art that feels meaningful, through if you're posting on social media. The reason why is because social media is... it's essentially at war, an economic war for your attention. And like, it's got the best algorithm in class, to hold your attention and to do all of those things. And you're essentially competing against the same HBO ad, you've seen 19 times for each area, you've had it to maybe it's just in the US, if you're in the US, you've seen this ad 1520 30 times, and your piece of content, your piece of art, is fighting for attention against all of these like multibillion dollar production that have ads, you know, every third slice of swipe stories. So I would say whatever art you create right now, maybe forget about the social media, just think about your art and the legacy that you're creating for yourself, because the future will listen to your art. Whether or not the Algorithm listens to it, because of the construction of how social media and attention is divided on internet, it's so unequal, it's not your fault, if your art is not getting attention, or it's not as if nobody cares. It might not be the fault of your art, it might be the ecosystem of attention that we have currently. But know that it is temporary. We're working on fixing it. But people are working on keeping it to Yeah, right. There's something to be aware of. The second thing is in relation to art and sustainability is the electrical usage of CPU and GPUs. So we have machines that make digital art or we have paint brushes, right? Paint brushes, when easy to know, easy to quantify, you have a tube, it's a diffuse metal that was extracted from the earth, right? We have words that cadmium zinc, right? Cadmium Yellow, yellow, cadmium, right, so those are all colors. And that come from metals. Those are diffusing uses. So in Philippe Bhihouix's "L'age des low tech", it's a French book on the age of low tech, which means like, we will have high tech now we're gonna have low tech in the future, which means more like a bike,, or like a manual, agricultural, mechanical thing that spins, and does a lot of smart things with minimal energy and it's better for the soil. And so in this book, he talks about the myth of, you know, recycling and the circular economy, and goes into saying that, like, well, we're not gonna scrape white walls for titanium white. Right, because it's titanium dioxide, on the white color. But that Titanium White comes from sand in the beach. Sometimes in India, actually, whether you're trying to mine for for Thorium to make nuclear electricity, or for things, it's like, they will go wherever there is the least amount of rights, and just mine, you know, like beautiful, natural, natural places, like, and they're just gonna, you know, use it for colors, but our computers are the exact same thing, you know, and, but there are ways to reduce it, which are really, really interesting. Right? So, I mean, obviously, if you're doing a painting, it's kind of sad, right? You have to paint smaller? you have to paint like watercolor and, you know, gum arabic, you know, totally doable, and there is obviously, the tradition for doing it sustainably is older than the tradition of doing it for the capitalist system, which is actually wonderful because
I At that time, there was scarcity of resources to actually get those things. So yeah,
exactly. So if you you had to be natural. So if you think about lamp, black or every black, it's crushed bones that are burned, right, but they're easy to get to get black color. And so, now you are thinking, Okay, I'm a digital artist, how can I reduce, you know, my electricity usage? How can I be more effective? How can I, and actually, it's not just about your electricity usage, it's also about your usage of the cloud, which could be storage, or it could be streaming. So streaming in 4k, and storage, like hundreds of gigs of storage in the cloud, that is something that will, like decrease the sustainability of your art, if that's something that is related to the production of your art or something that you want. So what you can do is watch videos, like if it's not, if you're not watching a video that has like interface on it, watch it in 480p, or 360. P, if it's music, watch it in 144p. P, it doesn't matter. It's the same codec for music, same codec for sound, right? Why would you use the extra data if you're just using YouTube for music? Um, that's one way. But then the other way is thinking about, Okay, what machine are you using, are you using a desktop, which is using 250 Watts, up to 250 watts of power at all times, which means like, every second 300 Watts have to be generated somewhere and sent to your computer. Here in California, it's a lot of solar. And we have a little bit of wind, and we have some like water that runs down a gravity pipe and generate turbine that's a little bit later in the evening. But in the evening, and at night, it's natural gas, that's, that doesn't make me very happy. So what I try to do is concentrate my work during the day. So that you know, or during concentrate my work, which is on heavy machines, machines, they use more Watts during the peak of the solar noon. Right. So I mean, I'm actually tying my art to the ISO reporting of California on the grid, to find the lowest, the peak, lowest carbon emissions per watts.
I mean, that's my work on planning your entire day around what kind of output of electricity is being generated? Does it hamper your thought process about the actual
future? That is the future it is the future in that, like, it's more like I'm getting prepared for it, because I know that brownouts and, which means, it's when everybody tries to use the AC in the summer. And so they're like, you know, the grid just goes like no, too much. and so, but for, for my friends who are in the Global South, today, the power cuts are happening already. So I just see it as it's happening to them, it will happen to me in 10 years. So I just got to get ready for power cuts and making art that is that works with power cut, you know, so I've been like essentially downgrading voluntarily downgrading, you know, my setup from like, a really, really big thing to just essentially an iPad, you know, and like in a cloud machine that I can access from time to time. But the big rig is off, 99% of the time, essentially, your big rig that uses 250 Watts is off, and you have a small tablet, it could be a surface, it could be an iPad, or could even be like an Android phone, you install Linux on it. And then you have like, a Bluetooth, small wacom tablet, you know, or whatever. And then you have a screen, it still works. It's all doable. You can also have a Raspberry Pi. And all those things can use five watts or phone uses five watts and iPads is what Raspberry Pi uses five watts. So and I think it's important to know numbers. The reason why is because the fossil fuel industry will constantly lie to us about what the future looks like if we have less energy. But I can tell you right now, I've just did an efficiency, I went from 250 to five. So already, you can have massive gains. We're just not looking, you know, and of course, like, everybody, you know, who knows a little bit climate change will tell you like, oh, that's unconsequential. Your 250 watts are on consequential compared to, you know, massive trucks and airplanes for the military and see, you know, Boieng C-130 , constantly patrolling the skies and stuff like this. But at least you've demonstrated that it was possible. And me talking to you right now we've, put it on the internet out there that it was possible to decrease your consumption to make the power generation of the oil industry less relevant, yeah, to make their argument weaker.
And I also saw a couple of posts on your Instagram page where you had demonstrated these things. I think, if I remember correctly, you were running blender on your iPad through a renewable power source. And you were working completely remotely at that point. And that was the first time that I was seeing the setup like that. So that was pretty interesting to see. Yeah, so that was where's
the Raspberry Pi connected via USB C directly to the iPad. And then, I mean, it's kind of ridiculous. It's using the USB as like a local internet port. Okay. Then you open that port and you say I want to connect using secure SSH, I want to connect to the Raspberry Pi and open it up inside. It's just kind of ridiculous. So I'm and I'm literally
like unaware of these things. So what exactly is Raspberry Pi? Is that like an operating system? What is that?
Yeah, so no, it's a, it's a this right here. I mean, you can't see on screen. Because it's a podcast. So I'm gonna describe it, it's kind of like a little black box, it fits inside of my hand, it's a little bit bigger than a little bit thicker than a phone, but a little bit smaller. And if you open the cover, you see essentially these green bits, you know, circuitry and radiators, and all these pins, they're open input out port, you know, ports. And on the other side is just all your regular computer stuff, right. So you see a USB port, you see an Ethernet. And that means that it's a it's a, it's like a phone in terms of what processor it has. But in terms of what you're allowed to do with it, it's a computer. In terms of port, it's a computer. And what that means is that you can run your blog on it, you can self host services, you can run a next cloud, which is basically like Google Cloud, but privately owned, you know, and it introduces this notion because it's so energy efficient, right? Five watts, and I think of one watt idle. So it's very energy efficient. And this efficiency unlocks the idea of self hosting services. And that, to me, is is like a source of hope, in that when the internet goes down, if it goes down, like there's already communities building secure local internet, you know, that will come back up like a week later or a month later, you will have a sort of peer to peer internet, internet will come back. And that's an interesting idea. We already have the tools, even if we were fleeing a disaster with like water in my backpack, I can still have a blog. That's really weird. That's a weird idea. Well, we will be able to tell each other things about the way we experienced this, as you know, it won't be HD, it won't be 4k, but we will be able to tell each other about the ways we're dying. And that's really I mean,
the ability to communicate still remains. This almost sounds like a good movie or story ready to be told. Because it is like, outlined within that and the solution coming out of that. Yeah, yeah,
it's uh, yeah, it's rough. I don't want to be too pessimistic. Because like a lot of a lot of people are pessimistic already. I think I think things have the possibility to improve. I just think it's naive to think that things are self correcting.
Yeah, that's a good way to put it. Again, it always comes back to that aspect of what the narrative is. Because if you look at the stories that were told, in the early 1900s, there was a certain narrative in the 1950s, that changes and then in the 2000s, there's a different kind of narrative. Yeah. And
Adam Smith, in "the in the wealth of nations", to go back to like the narrative like Adam Smith in the Wealth of Nations. He, I think that's this is where it was defined. You have capital, and you have labor, but nature does not exist. And the definition of it is, nature is God's gift to man. "Gods inexhaustible, gift to man", right. And the word "inexhaustible", which means like, it never runs out. And it was ingrained in the American psyche, in the American psyche of like business and success and being successful and having power is this idea that nature's God's gifts, man, so it's fine.
It's interesting. You mentioned Adam Smith, because his writings were quite a big proponent during the city planning of the early 1900s. And a lot of the bigger cities that we see across the world right now were built on those economic philosophies that eventually created the kind of city.
Yeah, the kind of when we say the city, we mean the city as the center of finance. So we mean, London, Paris, and New York like these. These feel like Empire cities, different in their construction. Yeah. Empire cities.
I mean, again, whenever I mean, this kind of a topic, when we talk about these things, it, it can feel quite overwhelming as well, because for me, personally, I've never really read up that much about it. And you're giving me a lot of data and points to think about. And the first thing that I'm wondering is okay, what can I actually change as a single artist, right? Like, for a storyteller, what can one storyteller actually do?
Yeah, um, honestly, I think, I think the best thing that artists can do is look into the cooperative labor model. And the reason why I say this is because the experience of democracy at work, I think we'll change people's minds. Right? Because you may have experienced voting once or twice in your life. But the experience of decision making in a cooperative, and voting, I think could change the workers mind in the way that You would then demand the same thing in the public sphere. Does that make sense? Yeah. And I think, is that we've accepted so much in the business sphere, that now the business sphere is trying to encroach onto the public sphere. And what can artists do it's not accept, just understand that there's another world out there, and that we're prevented from accessing that other world. And that we're prevented from accessing the other world by essentially, I don't like using that word, but the class enemies, you know, that their goals are not aligned to yours. And there's a report called pandemic plunder, executive excess report. And they found that during 2021, a bunch of the Fortune 500 companies that like to bend rules, the executive limit pay rules to have a pay ratio of 1800 to one, which means, like, the ratio between the CEO and the median worker, and, to me, that highlights this idea that it is, it is truly they are truly class enemies in the sense that, like, they've done it to a violent, to a violent degree. It happened during a pandemic, they fired workers, and then they had no health insurance, they underpaid the workers, they made them work extra hours, they did all those things, and pay themselves extra during a pandemic. We knew there was dangerous conditions, right, and they still did it. And so to me, it shows that they truly don't care about you. And they've publicly stated it multiple times, I don't know why you're still confused about the nature of like this relationship right now. And that's why we need to change and I think I'm simply reclaiming your power. Whoever's listening, reclaim your power, because you haven't. The means of production are not that complicated to learn, the machines are offered for free. You can have free machines in the cloud, every, every cloud service out there is competing to give you free hardware, to run and compile and build your games on, like, the, the, yeah, the problem will be attention. And the economics of those games, that if you're trying to make a cooperative, to get yourself out of this toxic relationship of employment within firms, your game will have to be successful, if you want to sustainably get yourself... create a new model employment, creating your model democracy, you will have to also be a commercial success. That is the trick and I use why like, you know, I support UBI, like, whenever it needs to come, because it needs to come now because the a lot of the jobs are automated out look at, I look at like the rate of automation of jobs, and it's, a lot of the workers are quitting or apparently quitting jobs are already on the verge of automation, which means nobody will replace them anyway. And I remember making this bet with my dad that by 2030 there would be 40% unemployment. we won't quite get there. But the numbers could get quite dramatic with automation. And I don't mean by that, that, like artists are done and everything is that we have to change the relationship. It's not about employment anymore. And I think this, this new world is approaching really, really fast. It's not going to be distributed equally as always, and that sucks. But I
think the great, the good thing is that there hasn't been a better time to create your own products just sitting in your own house, because all the tools are available for free. I mean, there is enough tools available for free to build a game from scratch to build a movie from scratch. Yeah. And you can really tell.
Yeah, and you can ask for money! The Internet has, I think, lowered the stigma on asking for money. And that's good. Like, hey, I need 75 bucks for this license. But it's software. I can't afford it. Can anybody pay it? For me? It's "Yes, I can. Here it is". And no questions asked. No, nothing like it. I think it's, I guess, quite wonderful. I think there's sort of like mutual aid in Game Dev. Yeah. Mutual Aid culture and Game Dev, there's developing, I think it's
quite good. I think that's also because everyone knows how hard it is to ship a product. So they are more willing to help each other out versus in the triple A scene because everyone is highly competitive. And they also need to deliver a good product at the end of the day, otherwise the company will crash. So the mentality is different there. I guess that drives that factor. I also just wanted to touch upon the oil painting series that you had done because those were again a set of visions that you had, that you wanted to wanting to portray but then you went into the oil painting realm, which is not something that you see concept artists have to Speak, do regularly.
Yeah, um, that was kind of like, I think, representative of my mental states in relationship to climate grief, in that this was like my anger or fear stage, you know, this was like my darkest moment and that, like, I really had no hope I really thought like, yeah, billions of people are gonna die. I don't, I don't know, I don't know, if billions of people are gonna die, I think it's gonna be definitely really hard. Um, but it could be something else than horror on Earth. But at that point, I was really thinking that it would be extremely rough, it would be rougher. And I thought, well, there's no way that digital art is going to get archived. Right? If, if it takes electricity to power, right, and if people need to know that there was something valuable on that data drive, to conserve it. And if the life expectancy of the data on that drive, because it's solid state, you know, storage is about 50 years tops, right? You know, they're selling CD drives, they're like 25 years, or 100 years or "millenium drives". But the reality is like, the data will get corrupted after 25 years and 50 years, it'll get corrupted, and maybe 100 years can't read it anymore. And I was thinking like, well, then all the digital art will get lost. , there's no way that anybody will archive all this stuff, like, gone. And if I care about, I was thinking that " oh, maybe future generation could be interested in the idea that people knew things were gonna collapse, way earlier than 2020s". back in 2019. People were already aware of those things and trying to raise awareness. I thought that that was important. And therefore, the oil paintings, could be rolled, and they're always displayed image, the cost, no electricity to display the image. , now in retrospect, I'm like, what, who is this art for? If you're fleeing from disasters, who gives a shit about paintings? There's no longer an audience, or your audience goes "yeah, we know" . Yeah. So I think I am okay, with my previous work being, like an experiment, and that it doesn't necessarily always fulfill all my needs, you know, and didn't necessarily land where I want it to land.
Yeah, I mean, yeah, definitely. Sorry to interrupt you. But I think that's a good lesson. Yeah. In general, whether you're trying to I mean, whether it's about Solarpunk, or just art in general, that not every piece needs to be successful, like they will be failed experiments. Yeah. Along the way, which eventually lead you to whatever you end up doing after that.
Yeah. And yeah, and while the series itself, like, I mean, those paintings are like, right now, they're on the right, right now, in the closet, you know, I mean, wrapped in cloth, like, I don't even know how they're doing, maybe they could be like, really destroyed, I don't know. But there's one that I actually display, which is the painting of boats, you know, in a cargo ship that is destroyed. And this is where I think this one was successful. And that I landed a dichotomy in between, you have progress that we're told is scale, and efficiency and speed, at any cost. And on the right is a ship that is traditional, slow, small, puny, all those things, but it's still running. And the other one is, you know, this idea of resilience and technological progress. What is progress? Really, when, when like, because when shit hits the fan, you're looking at technologies that people are using, it is not the technologies we're using today. It is more low tech. And it's really ingenious, and it really works and is reliable. And I think it's time to kind of arrogance to tech, you need to realize that your tech is not always the best way to solve a problem. Yeah, I mean, like social tech, you know,
I see. I mean, again, it's like constant state of progress or change that's always happening. I mean, when you're mentioning whether the drives will even be readable. 50 years from now, the first thing that I think about is like floppy disks, which were so common all the time. 30 years back, but now we don't even have a port to actually access that drive anymore. Yes. So that's always changing exactly what you do. Yeah. So you are also working on this anthology series called ecocide? So is that part of art versus artists was an extension? Or is this something of your own? Yeah,
It's a personal project, that I do. And I post my sketches and stuff on the server. And it definitely is the type of art that like other people also post on the on the server. So it's like, yeah, that is a very closely related. And so yeah, this Because I think this series is really to, raise awareness. And more question directly...the oil industry needs social licence, right. And social licence is us, thinking that the oil industry is our friend is not our enemy is not trying to kill us is helpful and is the source of prosperity. Right. And it's good for the economy, And when you attack that when you reveal environmental crimes, so for example, I put a painting, and then I tell the truth, which is the story of them, I went to a crime that they did, for example, like Shell, you know, I paint painted, like destroying some village, is because they destroyed some of the village in in Nigeria, and they killed, you know, Ogoni 9 activists, you know, who were trying to protest against the fossil fuel, like pipelines, you know. Shell are now destroying the Delta, you , and so, it, it's, I think it's you just reveal the legacy of those companies. And I think that already has, you know, a value in itself, because then people go at the pump, they see Exxon Mobil logo, they see a BP logo or shell logo, total logo, there's not that many companies and all of them have horrible disasters. Like, if you look into your community, wherever you're from, look at the history of it, there is I can almost guarantee you there has been an oil spill somewhere. If you can't find anything, that doesn't mean nothing has happened, by the way. Newspapers not always reliable, you look at the newspaper in the present, whether they telling us, okay, now look back and think 200 years of newspapers, yeah. It's not always telling the truth. It's always covering everything, you know, and there's a lot of work to uncover. The truth about what exactly have the oil companies done to us, socially, culturally, technologically? And I think one of my next painting will be about, the propaganda oil industry in schools, because that's extremely insidious.
Oh, that's interesting. I think. I mean, propaganda is an interesting and a good word, because the most common aesthetic that we see generally in films and movies today is of that cyberpunk vision, which, which was relevant when it was written originally in the 1970s 1980s. And that is essentially defined media in a sense, over the over the next 50 years at that point. Yeah. So
it's retro. It's not even current. Yeah, exactly. Neon, we don't even use neon anymore. But what is this aesthetic? Why
would I guess the question that I'm trying to arrive at beyond that is like, for younger artists, who's trying to break into the industry where their primary focus is to earn a living, and not really worry about the socio political ramifications of, you know, climate change? How can they actually, let's say, tune their mind to search for references, which allow them to create better stories and news?
Yeah, so um, I would love to encourage anyone to just don't be afraid to read scientific papers, and literally only read the abstract and then scroll down to see images, okay, that's, that was my introduction to science, and it's fine. And you start to read a little bit more of the paper, and then you start to start to like, make a link between the different papers. And then you have the vocabulary to Google the term you're looking for, which is in relation to, for example climate solutions. So for example, I know to Google decarbonized shipping, if I want to look for ships, I mean, to have, rigid or flexible sails operated by a crew or computer, kites, fletnner rotors, you know, that can move the wind propulsion, you know, and so it's essentially building yourself a library of mental keywords that your fight you're looking at image was futuristic thing, but that does., what is it saying it's turbine, but vertical, okay, how about a vertical wind turbine, and knowing that those existed. knowing the shape of it, and having a library of shape in your head, that looks cool, it looks certain way, and then have the name for it. And then you can Google it and always find that, you know, find it back or you can save those offline. And then you can find yourself a library of future technologies of future solutions. So for example, if you look at the look of solar panels, today, they have a certain look because they are manufactured from silicon. And from if they're a thin film, they're cadmium telluride or gallium arsenide. And the result is that they have a certain look. So the gallium arsenide, they are a little bit brown, they are the ones that we see on the, on the ISS (international space station). And then the blue ones, with the crystals, you know, are the poly crystalline, and then the black ones with the thin lines or the thin film. And so you already have three technologies and 3 looks. So obviously future technologies are going to have future looks and future aesthetics. And you can predict those as a concept artist. That is a future mapping, right? Yeah. Think of this 2d. space those data points of all those different designs, the aesthetic of solar punk is a boundary that contains all of those data points. And anybody can define that boundary of what solid means to them. But what really is true that that we are reacting to is the fact that there is a collection of points that are grouped together, that all of those things point towards a positive future in which, like, the combination of indigenous knowledge and governance and sovereignty over the land. And technology can actually, heal the earth on time or stop destroying it so that nature can heal itself.
Yeah, I guess that developing a new visual library and a visual vocabulary to allow you to create those kinds of artworks is quite
important. Yeah. But So quantum solar dots solar panel, for example, right? This is technology, it doesn't exist yet. People are working on it. But it could exist. if it did exist, then it would have a certain look. And you could imagine it right. And so I looked at the paper. And the way that it works is that it has different wavelengths of dots, that is sort of like printed in nanometer scale on a surface, and it's sort of like traps the lights and converts it to electron, but it's a shape, and they can change the width of a sort of like point of lights that will receive this exact nanometer wavelength (I'm referring here to the Bohr radius). And so essentially, the print shape, they will receive the maximum potential light from sunlight, right, including infrared, so its trying to capture some infrared, which solar panels have traditionally not been great at capturing. And so, but this would have a look or sort of like microscopic dots of light on the surface, but it looks magical, like and and I think that's what concept artists were doing, when they were trying to do those like cyberpunk stuff at the time (Syd mead's neon retro work for Blade Runner). It's like, okay, we have this new lighting, we didn't have as much lighting before, we have so much colored lighting, with these Neons. Right...but for us we're gonna have an aesthetic based on present and future tech, but now we're gonna have quantum dot solar panels, we're gonna have decarbonize ships with wind propulsion, we're gonna have velomobiles. These bicycle that you're sitting down on, okay, laying down on, you know, horizontal bicycle, with like, a fuselage, right? So it's aerodynamic. And you could have So quantum solar panel on that. And you could run your five watt phone or your iPad. And so you could like, take calls, you know, asking, and you have a little fan that blows a little cool air. And the experience of that vehicle or those future technologies is not the same as a slow, reliable, huge, you know, cargo ships or the cars that we have today. It's a little bit more adventurous, it makes the world bigger as a result, you know, but it's interesting, you could have a vehicle that like has less features, but a lot more range as a result, with a lighter battery ad drivetrain.
Yeah, that's an interesting way. I mean, the way you actually broke it down to actually create a fictional vehicle is an interesting approach. To me. I think the biggest drawback that I've seen in so called Solarpunk artwork is that they always try to portray some sort of a utopic idealistic vision, but it really doesn't feel grounded enough to feel believable. Yeah, nobody's taken, let's say, a 20. year from today approach to see how technology could be slightly shifted, where, like, for example, Black Mirror, did it in a darker tone, like, what would a positive tone in the same time frame look like? And that would be Yeah,
yeah. I think that's that's definitely more along those lines. I do think there is the there's the possibility of technological change, but I do I do think it's completely ridiculous when... Solar punk, if it looks like a brochure from Silicon Valley thinly veiled "green growth for the global north" version of sustainability, its a failure. It should be with the hands in the dirt. The solar panels are covered in dirt, you need to clean them every day, it's a lot more realistic. The solar panel doesn't always output all the watts that you needed to cut some services from time to time. go being pragmatic. And I think it's sort of a version of that, but "oh, I don't have enough battery for my render". Okay, I'll continue with a fountain pen. But, like, show a story with a character that isn't living this as a trauma, is just used to it. That's and show people that are happy, because we are taught that we will experience degrowth and energy descent as a trauma. It doesn't have to be. It can be an adventure. It can be wonderful. And I think it's this recentering you know, this, this change of narrative frame that will help
Yeah, something unrelated but the movie Her with Joaquin Phoenix, I actually I really liked that movie. And something that really sticks out to me is that even though it's a science fiction movie, it's like a very warm tone, very, very bright tone film. And that I feel is a good way to shift the narrative of what future could look like, even though the story within that is something else. But just the way they portrayed, what future could look like, was quite interesting.
Yeah, yeah. And that's, and that's very difficult, because our imagination immediately goes, disaster and pain, and all those things that we know, are happening today. And we don't want them to be happening in the future, but in order for them not to be happening in the future, there's a need to confront them directly. And, yeah, I really wonder about, are you really making the art to raise awareness? Or are you hoping that some of the people who are already aware will see the art and then be motivated to direct action, you know, nonviolent direct action. But the problem is, the limitation of nonviolent direct action is always that you get arrested, the state doesn't support it, and so you go block a pipeline, and you get arrested for 20 days. And eventually, it doesn't stop it, the company build pipelines anyway. I mean, it's , it's necessary, it's the only thing we have, it's our last line of resistance. but it it sometimes doesn't feel like enough even to the people doing it on the frontlines. if it's really my paintings goal is to influence more people to move to direct action, then I might be doing people a disservice, because is non violent, direct action potentially not scalable? And if it's not scalable, it's a problem. And this is, this is where it gets a little tricky with climate change, because you have to be responsible, because,, most people are essentially in their bubble. And once you tell them about it, they immediately want the solution. But the truth is, we need everybody working on it and thinking about it, because it's the fact that we're not all thinking about it is the problem
at a more practical level, let's say do you have? I mean, do you open up art mentorships, where people are artists and designers who have a similar way of looking at the world, where they could actually learn from you who's somebody quite invested in this Solarpunk art movement, where they can actually rather than starting from scratch, they can get the benefit of learning from you directly, since you already spent quite a bit of time researching about it.
I don't feel ready to mentor anyone, but I can Yeah, if anybody wants. What I like to do better is skill exchange, as well, because it kind of equalize things, beyond the idea of a mentor or a mentee. And so yeah, I'm looking to learn many things including programming. And if there's anybody who learned programming or is even willing to learn programming, the same programming language as I am alongside, then I'll teach you art. It's really that simple. And definitely the Artist vs Extinction server is where I post my sketches, I will add a invite to the channel. So if anybody wants to,
yeah, definitely add to the ask any question description of the episode. So people can, you know, look into that, there will be 100 invites. Yeah, and we post a lot of stuff in the resource channel.
And there's excellent books to kind of, like, you know, like, get started on, like, an introduction to the movements of people who are trying to, like, get us out of this crisis, or at least getting to acknowledging the crisis, so at least we don't feel alone, and there's really good books to start. One of them is "Degrowth in movements". Degrowth in movements and pathways for transformation. This book essentially goes into the different movements that are within the broader climate movement, but more specifically movements and philosophies of sufficiency. And so you have degrowth you have commoning, commoning, as, for example, like Creative Commons, we mentioned Creative Commons, and open source, but like for food, that would be good. I would like that. Sounds delicious. Yeah, like Blender. So that would be good. And so, so Commoning, we also have Artivism The idea is to create space for dissent. Telling people they have the right to disobey authority figures if the authority figures are, you know, creating plans that lead to extinction or creating plans that lead to extreme worker alienation. , so it's about reclaiming the power.
what I would always like to visit with the caveat that be aware of the reality that you live in within each country and not not directly follow what might be acceptable in one place, or the other thing that's quite important to understand as well.
Yeah. But definitely have an internationalist perspective. Because I think there's no reason that anybody should accept a low wage because of their nationality. It's an injustice and I don't think we should accept it. I think there should be an international perspective of labor in Game Dev, and art and entertainment, in that we can actually orgaanize to negotiate for better wages as a collective way, way better. So that is definitely something interesting to me.
Well, Efflam, this
has been a surge of new information for me, really, it's been pretty interesting. This conversation, never had this kind of conversation so much for your great questions. No, my pleasure. Absolutely. I mean, for someone, I've been seeing your work for quite a few years now. So actually, having this conversation and understanding what your perspectives are, is quite interesting. And I'm sure a lot of people must be relating with this thought process. Because, obviously,
yeah, a lot of people in the, you know, who have been sort of, dissatisfied with the model of firms in entertainment, are moving to a cooperative ownership model. And a lot of the people, identify as being ideologically motivated. I think it's a change of story, a complete change of story in the relationship to work in the relationship to power. And I think this, this act of reclaiming the power through at least attempting to form a worker COOP. The next group of people, I'm a part of, that there is no power hierarchy, you know, just the hierarchy between us that there's no, somebody as a boss, somebody isn't that we can create, you know, we can have co creation, where everybody is on the same level, but truly for democratic means not for the, oh, we are a flat hierarchy, but we have a founder who can hire and fire anyway. How is that flat? 350, to one between the CEO and the median workers, that's unacceptable. In a lot of countries culturally, in Spain, for example, you hear cooperative worker say , "anything above two, six, I don't work". This this ratio of like, you know, in the Mondragon cooperative, they wouldn't accept the 350 to one ratio that we have in the US. So this is where I think the internationalism perspective comes in. Definitely. That's awesome. Um, so just be aware of, okay, yeah, sorry. I was just saying, like, being aware of what other people have fought for. Yeah. And have gained. Yeah.
Now, again, this ties back to the original point of actually reading up and spending the time to do the research before diving into these topics, because, like I said, people have already worked on these aspects, whether it be through storytelling or through technical papers. So having that knowledge is quite important. One last question that I want to leave you with. And you obviously thought quite a bit about how the future of the world looks like in your vision, but do you plan for your own life as well over the next 10 to 15 years, or at a personal level, you just take it maybe a day at a time or a year at a time.
So I used to have these, like really big ambitious plans, like five year plans and stuff, I can't plan for that long anywhere in the world is too chaotic. But I was doing this, this informal thing of mapping where, you know, I kind of have a piece of paper, a draw a line in the middle, this is the path of this. And this is the path of this, these are two options, kind of like A / B testing, right. And one was the freelance route. And the other one was like, in house job. And in house all had all these required steps of like what I thought I needed to do to get in house. And it happened a little bit earlier than I wanted to, and in a way that like, I have this false idea of my freelance career being more developped than it is. I was realizing that like no, I think actually wants to build really the means of production, myself or with others but the entire process, from like concepting game design, gameplay programming, build engine automation, the whole thing. and I've been really, really inspired by, the creator of Stardew Valley, and it was a book Ultra learning that kind of like had a passage on this crater of Stardew Valley in, I think it took four years. And not all the skills that the creator of the game used was known at the beginning, at the beginning of the project, and that's so inspiring. That's what I'd like to do, an obstacle course. And it's the fact that it's very unknown. That is exciting,. And so definitely my 10 year plan is to build productive capacities to be able to create eco punk entertainment a good cadence. And also, loutside of the productivity, the stories that come out feel like they were representing, you know, the ideas of the people I interact with, not the ideas of bosses. Because the fact is, if they are the founders, and if they can hire and fire anyone, any idea that you propose that is that reveals class dimensions could get you fired. And if you're poor or didn't grow up with intergenerational wealth, you learned to self-censor.
I'm really looking forward to what kind of stories you come up with, I think you I mean, you're definitely quite a prolific learner and creator of art. So I'm sure you will keep on developing these,
I would love to finish something, I would love to finish something within the next 10 years, I would love to make a game called the shipyard about the journey to decarbonize shipping. So all the way from small boats of a sail to like, giant containers that you retrofit with a million kites and rigid blades on the top of the containers to catch the wind. So a wide range of solutions, ranging from all the way to that, but put that in a video game so that people can exercise their imagination about what the future of solutions look like, you know, and what the future of sustainability look like. My goal is to create, games that can really exercise people's positive imagination about the future.
I think that's a good note to end this conversation because it leaves us with a sense of one thing. I have a visual already for these ships. It was really interesting. This is really fun conversation. Really fun.