Using Art As Activism For Environmental Issues

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Elysia Roscoe, Maria Carla Spagna, Emelie Hedvall, and Roseanna Bell. Photo: Whitney Browne Photography

Elysia Roscoe, Maria Carla Spagna, Emelie Hedvall, and Roseanna Bell. Photo: Whitney Browne Photography

Plastic waste accounts for over 32 million tons of our trash in the United States a year. The issue with plastic waste is that it does not biodegrade and there is no natural process in place that can absorb plastic back into the biological cycle. California alone spends over 25 million dollars annually to discard of just plastic bags. Not only is our obsession with plastic expensive, it is also killing our planet. Stiv Wilson (of the ocean conservation group, 5 Gyres) estimates there are over 315 billion pounds of plastic in the oceans right now. Our habits are killing our wildlife, polluting our water, and causing us to absorb BPA into our bodies.

Emelie Hedvall, Elysia Roscoe, Kelly Vaghenas, and Justin Heim. Photo by Arnaud Falchier

Emelie Hedvall, Elysia Roscoe, Kelly Vaghenas, and Justin Heim. Photo by Arnaud Falchier

Vanessa Long, an activist and artist, seeks to raise awareness of this growing issue of plastic waste by combining hatha yoga, theatre and dance in creating works that inspire her audience to take action. Long is the artistic director and founder of the Vanessa Long Dance Company, whose mission is to create work that focuses on social and political issues we all face in everyday life.

Through her company, Long is creating a piece entitled Urban Tumbleweed, which uses over 1,840 plastic bags to bring the audience into a future world where plastic dependence has lead to a overwhelming disaster. In the piece Long connects mind and body using the breath to flow through the movements and yoga postures.

Using breath in dance is a relatively new concept that Long feels has yet to be fully explored. By allowing breath to flow through the movement, Urban Tumbleweed creates a unique atmosphere for its audience members.

For this piece she is also exploring the Muladhara, Manipura and the Vishuddha Chakras as inspiration for the movement throughout the piece and extensive storytelling through facial expressions.

Emelie Hedvall, Justin Heim, Elysia Roscoe, Kelly Vaghenas. Photo by Inner Lite Photography

Emelie Hedvall, Justin Heim, Elysia Roscoe, Kelly Vaghenas. Photo by Inner Lite Photography

Urban Tumbleweed began its creation in February 2015. After living in New York City for several months Long noticed that plastic bags were the tumbleweeds of the city. They whirled in the wind and hung from bare trees; never completely decomposing or disappearing, just changing color and shape as they move throughout the cityscape. Long became determined to raise awareness and hopefully change this issue through performing arts. As she began to create she realized it is one thing to say how many bags the average person uses a year but it is quite another to actually show someone the mass amount of bags they are using and the damage we are all causing. Urban Tumbleweed is set to premiere on Earth Day at the Medicine Show Theatre in NYC. Long hopes that through her work she can make the world a better and a more peaceful place for the next generation to enjoy.

Other than raising awareness there are little things we can all do to rise above the plastic. Try choosing reusable bags and water bottles and staying away from things like sandwich bags and drink containers. When you go to a coffee shop ask if they can fill up your thermos instead of using a cup. You can also support plastic bag bans, polystyrene foam bans, and even bottle recycling bills. A little bit can go a long way in changing our planet for the better.

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About Author

Shannon Karr has been a writer, yogi, and dancer for many years, focusing on artistry and spirituality in her writing while going through this journey called life. shannonkarr89@gmail.com.

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