climate justice

Artists continually find new ways to connect in these days of disconnection. 

TikTok artist Salem Ilese conceptualized a cross between an art exhibition and a mixtape. Ilese wanted it to uplift multiple creative performers and creators and showcase their work at the intersection of climate and human rights. 

“I Really Love This Song” features artists responding to prompts about their world. The work is curated by The Slow Factory and powered by the clean energy drink RUNA. 

Artist Baby Yors said artists find climate change important and they want to share that with fans. His contribution was an energetic dance called “Show Us What Confidence Looks Like.”

“People often look to artists for guidance or just inspiration,” Yors said. “Looking at a video or listening to a song and putting a message that has to do with helping the planet or maybe giving guidelines on how to do things reaches a lot more people directly if it is from an artist or a band.”

 

Project supports creators

More than 20 artists of a diverse range of backgrounds participated in the project, uploading their work to the digital exhibition platform.

Daniella Labat is the senior manager for public relations, experiential and partnerships for RUNA. 

She stresses that RUNA identifies and supports emerging talent. She watched the work of Slow Factory and how it was emerging in spaces of social justice and environmental justice. 

“One of our initiatives, as we think of growing and building the brand, is to make sure we are supporting creators and artists and helping them to have a platform to express their ideas and art,” Labat said.

She contacted Slow Factory and shared this goal with it. They then communicated the idea of “I Really Love This Song” as a mass collective piece.

“That’s how the relationship was formed, and then we co-created and supported the initiative of ‘I Really Love This Song,’” Labat said. 

 

Interpreting broad ideas

With “I Really Love This Song,” artists are given a series of prompts from which to choose. They can interpret them any way they like.

Some of the prompts are:

• Show us your ideal world.

• Sing a song to your future self.

• Write a song from the diaspora.

• Tell a story of survival.

• Dance your anxiety away.

• Teach us a meditation.

• What are your hopes for the world in 2022?

• Play the sound of your childhood.

 

“The prompts allow for creators to really have an interpretation,” Labat said. “The prompts give creators the ability to interpret how they want to showcase their stories and what their creativity means. We’re all about people feeling fully alive. As a product, we are a clean energy concept. When you drink a RUNA, you feel awake, alert and ready to take on the day.” 

Yors appreciated RUNA’s flexibility. 

“They gave me no guidance,” Yors said. “They said, ‘Show your creativity and show your confidence.’ Just hearing that, I felt, ‘OK, I’m going to put out something that is different from everything else I’ve done.’ Just that guideline gave me an extra push to add a few little things that I otherwise wouldn’t have. It inspired my work in general.” 

 

Variety of media

The exhibition includes spoken word, from lecture to poetry and monologues; dance; singing of original songs with keyboard, guitar or a cappella; artwork sometimes created during the video; and soundtracks. 

“It makes sense for us, as RUNA is from the Amazon rainforest in Ecuador,” Labat said. “We work with Indigenous communities to harvest leaves and with tea farmers. Our supply chain is built to protect and support these communities.”

For many of the creators, their work was inspired by being isolated and coming out of it. Yors said the project was a creative outlet.

“I started producing most of my music in quarantine,” Yors said. “I was just playing around with some beats, and I created a lot of dance. I kept thinking about my body and my health and how it is related to my performance and all that I do. If anything happens to my body, I can’t dance and I can’t express myself. As a dancer, I’m ultra-aware of my body.”

Yors’ piece for “I Really Love This Song” shows his art and music’s vitality sharing the importance of health. Yors describes himself as a RUNA junkie, saying it is one of the few things he drinks.

“I just don’t like the feeling of coffee. It makes me jittery,” said Yors, who hails from Argentina. “(RUNA) just feels like I’m doing good to my body and at the same time getting energy and it’s delicious.”

Labat said in the past year, the community has learned a lot about sustainability and climate justice.

“It is no longer just, ‘Please recycle,’” Labat said. “It is understanding how it impacts people’s stories and livelihoods. There are artists we have commissioned from Indigenous communities committed to protecting our rituals in aims of helping and protecting the planet. It doesn’t have to be blatant. It can be abstract. That’s the beauty of how art influences change in business.”

Labat is a firm believer that artists and creators play an important role in improving the world. 

“It is really important to recognize that we wouldn’t be able to move forward, excite, inspire or challenge ideas if it wasn’t for artists and creators, whether music, dance or physical art,” Labat said.

“Cultural expression allows us to think differently about what is, what matters, what inspires and excites us, what moves us, and how we can continue to support creators at a time when everyone is prioritizing what matters to them. Supporting and learning about artists is an amazing way to protect people and their ideas and come together as a culture and as a society.”