As an identified aesthetic Solarpunk is a relatively new concept and idea space. This is point further proved by the fact that Cyberpunk is recognized by the computer as I type and Solarpunk gets treated to the red squiggly line, suggesting that I may have meant to say “Solarium”. “The term, coined in 2008, refers to an art movement which broadly envisions how the future might look if we lived in harmony with nature in a sustainable and egalitarian world” (1). Solarpunk is a reaction to the frequent dystopian themes played out in other futuristic aesthetics, and serves as an optimistic view for human’s development WITH the planet and technology.
“If we wish to survive and keep some of the things we care about on the earth with us, it involves a necessary fundamental alteration in our world view where we change our outlook completely from competitive to cooperative.” Artist Michelle Tulumello said to the BBC (1) . “We need art and music and film and even advertising that paints the picture for us of what our future can be, if only we are willing to work together and build it.” from Artist Elijah Johnson’s entry to Medium’s 2021 Solarpunk Art Contest (2). Please view both of these artist’s works which are shown and linked below, because I believe their attitudes encapsulate the meaning behind the aesthetic. The ethos of Solarpunk and creating Solarpunk art is envisioning a reality where humans, technology, and the environment coexist in harmony.
Beyond an aesthetic in the artistic-cultural world Solarpunk is a movement in an ethical and political space, pushing the bounds of our collective imaginations beyond what has been traditionally served to us. Media are an important gateway for generating and changing our perceptions about what is and is not possible, and traditional views of the future depict human society being overrun by our faults of greed, our own hubris, or the technology we produce degrading whatever humanity we have. Blade Runner, The Terminator, WALL-E, and Mad Max are all great examples of this type of media. Solarpunk seeks to imagine what society can collectively create in a future where we overcome the issues of the modern day, learn from our mistakes, and collaboratively create a society that is symbiotic with the Earth.
Hopefully viewing some of the art below will inspire you to be a part of creating a future that is more equitable and sustainable. I think that the way we frame our future will play a big part in the way that it turns out, not in a manifestation 5th dimension way, but in an greater attitude shift towards overcoming what seems like insurmountable problems on a global scale. If we wish to create a future that is beneficial for us and future generations, we have to collectively create it.
^ Cover image via https://architizer.com/blog/inspiration/stories/solarpunk-architecture-and-the-built-future/
^ 2021 Solarpunk Art Contest Winner by Elijah Johnson via Medium https://medium.com/@yishan/solarpunk-art-contest-2021-winners-d935df357c84
Full Animation- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IEDkr09qWZo
^ Art by Michelle Tulumello via the BBC https://www.bbc.com/news/business-57761297
^ Earthship Community home CC license 3.0 by Dameon Hudson
^Art by @cybertastical via Instagram (Cyberpunk as opposed to Solar Punk)
^ Art by Imperial Boy via “YES!” magazine https://www.yesmagazine.org/environment/2021/01/28/climate-change-sustainable-solarpunk
I really enjoy the insight you provided on what Solarpunk is. I recognized the aesthetic shown in the images you shared, but before this post I hadn’t heard the term Solarpunk and did not know what it was. I really like the idea it represents of human growth becoming intertwined with nature, which opposes what currently seems to be the truth: that humanity and nature cannot coexist. Your post reminded me of a building currently under construction in Denver, One River North. It seems to follow the idea of nature and manmade structures coexisting. The building is still under construction, but if you haven’t seen the renderings, you should look it up. Other than this, did you come across any real life examples in your research, and/or do you think it’s feasible to implement into future construction?
Hi Jonah, I just heard about the riverfront project in Denver. I love the idea of a long term community investment that harbors feelings of conservation and connectedness with nature. One real life example is the main terminal in the Singapore airport, so yes I think its feasible and beneficial.
I liked your choice in aesthetic as solarpunk. This type of artistic view of the world interests me as well, especially with your description of humans learning from mistakes in order to live in harmony WITH the planet rather than living in harmony with just each other at the expense of the world around us. Something I thought of when reading this post is terrariums, which (if you haven’t heard of them) include a mini biosphere in an air-tight container in which tiny bugs and plant life create nitrogen, oxygen/co2 cycles, and water cycles as the trapped contents of these containers continuously cycle everything they need to in theory, last forever. It creates a mini environment where everything has a symbiotic relationship with its surroundings, and often shares a similar aesthetic as the photos you included in your post. They may provide a real-world example of solarpunk on a small scale.
I’ve actually tried making a few terrariums of my own, which mostly turned to rot to be honest. I certainly agree this type of appreciation for nature is an integral part of this aesthetic. Moreover, the understanding for what a terrarium initially needs for the internal processes to be self sustaining, is a principle that should be applied to our society at large.