It’s hard to justify being an artist some days. I feel like I’m not really making a difference in the world, that I’m buying into a system that I fundamentally disagree with. But then, those are the times that I’m conscious of that fact. The rest of my life, like everyone else it seems, I spend in blissful unconsciousness. I’m making an art piece about New Zealand Freshwater at the moment. It’s something I’ve been researching for a while now, and have already responded to on a basic level.
This time, however, I’ve been forced to re-examine my own behaviour in relationship to the subject. I, like most people in this country, live in a house with a flush toilet. It’s an everyday mindless thing, to flush excrement down the toilet. I know it’s one of the biggest microbial pollutants of our fresh water, I know it’s unfair to return it to nature with the expectation that nature will fix it, I know that the chemicals used to ‘treat’ it are bad for the environment and ecosystems they’re being pumped into, but I still do it. Every day. Because that’s what we’re taught as toddlers, potty training: always flush the toilet. To be fair, we make a conscious effort not to flush if it’s not necessary, an attempt to conserve water (how much water does it take to flush a toilet!?), but that goes out the window if we have guests round.
We take water for granted, especially here in New Zealand. I’m a part of that ‘we’ so why should I make art about it? I don’t have a solution to the environmental problems that we’re causing. I’m a poor student, so buying expensive alternative cleaning products without unnatural chemicals in them is not always an option. The materials I am using to display the samples, used in ecology labs, sure, but they’re plastics. I’m not a scientist with years’ worth of statistics to back up everything I’m displaying, so is it relevant? Is executing this, in the public eye, with the hope that people will get involved enough? Will this create enough of a critical dialogue around the topic to justify the environmental cost of its creation, and of my living?
And what do you do, when the answer is “I don’t know.” Because I don’t. But this is all I know. This is my first language to communicate in. Making art about ‘big picture’ issues is the only way I can justify being part of a late capitalist system which seems hell bent on destroying all natural resources in order to turn a profit. Some days I don’t even know if that’s enough.