Environmental activism is gaining traction both in Ukraine and around the world. Protesting on a large square in a capital somewhere is one approach. Andrea and Amanda Belluso take a completely different approach, presenting the world with new ideas and opportunities to be at one with nature. In its many chapters, Arts For Future aims to tell just one story of humans and nature together.
Arts for Future is something that not many of our readers will be familiar with. Could you explain a little how it started?
Amanda Anderson Belluso: It started with me and Andrea watching many recent documentaries such as A Life on our Planet, Kiss the Ground, and many others. We were watching one after the other and decided to take action. What pushed us further was that we saw how fast the world came back. The skies were blue in China and the water was clear in Venice. After all, there isn’t much required to bounce back. Starting with that, we reached out to our friends Gary Douglas and Dr Dain Heer (founder & co-creator of Access Consciousnessⓒ). They had had a thought previously that if the richest people in the world were to buy up parts of the rainforest and preserve it or restore it, this would create a great change for the better in our world’s climate. In terms of how we could take action, the obvious thing Andrea and I could do was photography, it is closest to our hearts.
Andrea Belluso: Not only that but also, we wanted to act, instead of reacting. The world is going to pieces, we have to go and demonstrate, we have to picket the parliament and find someone to blame. Instead of that, we decided to take action. What can we create with beauty and art that would lead to something bigger? This would start a completely different conversation.
In your photographs, you’ve chosen to work with dancers. What made you choose this medium, over, say, activists?
AB: First of all, taking pictures of activists is reacting. Look, people are fighting for this. And we’re not interested in that. We could take pictures of other people, but the dancers are incredibly special. They have a completely different contact with and are present with their bodies. And the only thing we can contribute as humans is not creating separation between our bodies and nature. Through our bodies, we can perceive that we’re part of this planet, not separate from it.
AAB: Also, we wanted to do something that felt true for us, something that matched our worldview. I would say we chose dancers, because of the energy of elegance and beauty. Through beauty, we aim to inspire people to take action, instead of fighting and blaming. Honestly, we as humans in general have messed up. Instead of focusing on that, we can focus on the choices we make now, and what we can do differently to create a change. Many people say that it’s impossible, but it is possible if we all contribute in our small own unique way.
AB: Also, we didn’t choose to photograph activists because we don’t have to prove anything. By photographing activists, we choose that they are right, and someone else is wrong. That’s not what we’re trying to do here. As Amanda said, there is no problem to fix, because this situation is not a problem to be fixed. The more we see (editor: climate crisis) as a problem, the more energy is wasted on the problem itself.
AAB: If fighting worked, we would have had one fight, and that would’ve been it. Fighting is not the way to go.
AB: And also, the thing with the dancers, it’s just the beginning. What you see is just the first chapter. I refer to them as chapters because each one is a small tale of a big picture. The first chapter is called the Personification of Nature. Here we don’t see if it’s humans becoming nature, or the other way around. It’s a mix of the two. This visual confusion is intentional, I want to get rid of the separation that we tend to have between us and the planet. It’s a grand opening chapter that asks the question: if we don’t have to fight, prove anyone right or wrong, just be in communion with our planet, what else can we create?
It’s just the first chapter. The second chapter will be completely different. We most probably won’t use dancers. We won’t use the same digital manipulations as in the first chapter. Even though it’s me taking the pictures for the whole series, every chapter will look nothing like the previous. At the moment we have written five chapters, and are preparing to shoot the second one. That each is completely different is a challenge to the concept of definitions. Photographers tend to define themselves with a style, just like every single person. But definitions are limiting. Defining is very limiting.
With Arts for Future, you’re aiming to offer a different point of view, not necessarily a call to action. You’re trying to say that we, as humans, are part of nature?
AB: Well, that’s one aspect of it. With Arts for Future, the main thing was trying to contribute to environmentalism through beauty. We’re creating possibilities. They are not just for us, they’re for everyone. Especially for the people seeing the pictures, and buying them. Either the collectable prints or a screensaver. If you buy a screensaver, it’s only 10 EUR. Most people can afford that. The money goes directly to the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation, which is involved in hundreds of projects for the planet.
AAB: That is of course important, but even more important is just raising awareness, and having this conversation. Of course, it is exciting to find out how much money we can donate. Money has incredible power, for example, you can buy a rainforest. But most exciting is just to have a conversation about this. A simple question like, ‘what if we stopped fighting and instead took a different point of view?’ It also is very frustrating to see people actively choosing not to engage in this conversation, because they think that in 50 years they will die anyway. I don’t aim to change their point of view. I aim to engage people who want to have this conversation. I find it inspiring in creating venues and spaces for people to have this different conversation. It’s astonishing seeing how many people are uniting. The crazy ones that think they can change the world unite together and change it.
AB: For example, Greta (editor: Thunberg), is a crazy kid with an idea. And everyone said that. But look at her now, she is changing the world.
AAB: She is functioning a lot from fighting, but that’s because she perhaps doesn’t know any other way. I am very grateful for her work, though it would be curious to see what other conversation we can spark.
You’ve mentioned Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation. Can you talk a little about their main goals?
AB: Their main focus is the water of the planet. It is a very pressing issue: the rivers are polluted, fish are dying, some coral reefs are extinct. Chasing Coral is a great eye-opening documentary on this topic.
AAB: very depressing…
AB: It shows how vital this almost extinct organism is for our planet. The coral in itself takes hundreds of years for it to be born again. This organism is contributing to the thin balance between temperatures we have on our planet. It plays a vital part, in other words.
When I’m talking about being at one with nature, I mean on both levels: physical and energetic. Nature is a vital part of our breathing today. If we were to disappear, nature would go on and flourish. We depend on it, not the other way around.
You also talked about different chapters in Arts for Future. Of course, chapters belong to a book, a photo book in your case. What is the story the book is telling?
AB: Arts for Future is a book without being a book. The story we’re telling is how we can contribute to our planet, mankind, by looking at different aspects. We’re proposing different possibilities. The next chapter, without revealing too much, explores the idea of the planet’s lungs, the rainforests, and is also making a reference to the burning of witches. Witches were the ones that were at one with nature and could heal people through their knowledge. This took power away from the church, and the separation grew. When we realise this, we would be a lot kinder to the planet and stop treating the forest with poison and disregard.
AAB: It’s also about the innate knowing that we have. We have grown to believe that everything should be logical and proven. But what is more powerful is just knowing, intuition. If we’re willing to listen, we would know exactly what is good and bad for our bodies. What if we were listening to what we know, not necessarily having to explain, just trusting what we know? We have all had that moment when we took intuitive action, and it was the best choice at the end of the day. I think if we would trust intuition more, we would be more united with nature.
AB: I think it’s just being conscious of the planet. It’s both mine and Amanda’s desire. We want to create a planet that is based on contributing to each other without separation. With the earth, planet, animals, each other, and our bodies.
In terms of helping, is there a way to contribute to your project?
AB: With chapter one, we exposed collaboration with the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation. You can either buy a screensaver for your phone (10 EUR) or go to www.artsforfuture.com and select prints. We made it so that these are a limited edition of signed and certified prints, meaning what you receive is a collectable item. There are only three prints per image in certain sizes. Some prints are done on fine art paper and are cheaper. But also, there are handmade prints on silver gelatine paper. The best printer in Sweden has done all of them by hand, just like it was done in the days of film photography. This meant countless hours in the darkroom, with a timer, really old-school. The reason some prints are quite expensive, compared to similar prints from art museums that are not, is because they are 104cm wide. Even when I first saw them, I was blown away. Having one of those prints in your home is a gift, both for you and the world around you. Seventy per cent of the money is donated to the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation for their actions for a sustainable planet.
AAB: Buying the prints is of course a way to contribute, but also just talking about this and raising awareness is another way to contribute. This can be done in any way possible. From just sharing with a friend to going on national news.
So really, these prints are not only a highly sought-after collectible but also something that brings joy and reminds the buyer they have done something good.
AB: Arts for Future can contribute to many things, happiness included. By choosing one of these prints, you choose to do a bit more, to give back to our planet. There’s something for everybody in there, from 10 EUR to 6000 EUR. As a little secret, I’d recommend buying the more expensive prints, because they go up in value very fast, much faster than anything else on the website because they are handmade and unique. But as we said before, even if the reader talks about it, good or bad, it is still a contribution. Just by spreading the word.