Art can be seen as a bridge. But we like to view it as a tunnel that digs deeper into the roots of how society imagines itself and operates. So what’s the ultimate role of an artist? To spark conversations.
“Tunnel Talks” is a series designed to feature conversations between The Rights Studio and supported residents. Our residents develop art projects that focus on rights issues. Today, we invite photographer Frederick Herrmann to talk about Do they really want to know how we feel? his project that discusses how climate anxiety and solastalgia are impacting young generations all over the world.
The interview was edited for clarity and length.
The Rights Studio: Can you give us a brief description of your project?
Frederick Herrmann: I wanted to explore how our young generations feel regarding their future in the climate crisis. And encompass ideas from different stakeholders: teachers, scientists, psychologists, etc. I know people picture a hard future ahead and how shocked everyone seems to be. Of course this affects the Global South in disproportional ways, but Gen Z is concerned all over the world with what the future holds. For young people, the climate crisis is more personal because they're the ones who will be sticking around to see the consequences. They are the ones who need to fight to have their voices heard and to have a choice in the future. Their chaos of emotions is being shown in an adaptation of how today's Gen Z shares their personal selves.
TRS: What have you learned from your photos?
FH: I have learned that this is definitely the way I want to be working. I want to explore rights issues through the arts because that’s where the important questions are. I got to glimpse different emotional states and see them being translated into photographs and got to see people's honesty as I was posing questions to them. And I also let them do their own thing. Everyone has something to tell, especially when it comes to how they feel about climate anxiety. Part of the learning was letting go of control as a photographer: having a precise concept in mind, but letting whoever or whatever is being portrayed take the lead.
TRS: What would you say for someone who wants to make art like you?
FH: Don't think of a topic as too big. Take your time to think about it. Start working, start somewhere. Eventually, it's going to lead to an aspect you can portray in your unique way. Most importantly, think about what you're asking and let the answer be a personal one. Make sure to have that guiding question throughout the project so you don’t lose track.
TRS: Has the meaning of climate anxiety changed for you?
FH: Yes. Meeting people over the course of the project has very much changed my perspective and impacted what I want to show. Over time, my photographs were more giving this idea of: you are not alone, all sorts of people feel stressed regarding their future in many many difficult ways. Also, through the course of the work, I found so much hope as well, which is good to grasp on.
TRS: Why is it important to talk about rights issues through arts?
FH: Art is about having honest conversations and we have a responsibility to talk about those difficult topics. Starting these conversations through beautiful and appealing art can be an effective way to grab people's attention. This is also how Gen Z communicates these frightening realities through social media - which is a big aspect of this project. Overall art reminds us to fight for our rights. We need to remember the importance in our everyday life, especially in a world that has an announced climate catastrophe. We need to remember that our rights are worth it.
TRS: Can photography change the world?
FH: No. But it can change people's mindsets, and with the right mindsets, people can change the world.
TRS: What's the main feeling you want people to have as they walk out of your exhibition?
FH: Empathy. I want people to feel empathy for younger generations and all of the challenges they will have to go through. I also want Gen Z to feel empathy for themselves, understand themselves a bit better and have a feeling of community.
Do they really want to know how we feel?
The exhibition will open both digitally and physically on 5 November.
Join us at 6PM on 5 November at PremArts in Berlin. The exhibition will be open from Wednesday to Sunday 11am-6pm until the 20 November.
The digital exhibition will be available here on the same day.
Xenophile (n.): A person who has a love of foreign people and culture; A person with an interest in celebrating people's differences.