solar punk | Imagine a better world

In 2020-2021, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, fine arts teacher Mélissa Nadeau asked her students to create an autobiographical work to explain what they were feeling. To show young people that they were not alone in going through difficult times, Mélissa invited schools from all over the world to participate in this major project, which she called Diagnostik. What came out was very beautiful, but also “very dark”.

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Catherine Handfield

Catherine Handfield
The press

For the second edition of the project, this year, Mélissa wanted to go elsewhere, to something more positive, more radiant. Searching the internet she discovered Solarpunk. And that’s exactly where Melissa wanted to go.

Simultaneously a movement, an artistic genre and a literary genre, Solarpunk envisions a world where people live in harmony with nature, using technology, yes, but to live better, to build a sustainable future. Solarpunk is therefore the opposite of the dystopias often used when it comes to imagining the future.

Mélissa Nadeau invited the students to draw inspiration from the Solarpunk universe to create a work (painting, drawing, digital drawing) with an optimistic vision of the future. This year the project is called Projexion. About 60 schools from 18 countries participate.

The Solarpunk Aesthetic

  • The Future Is Bright, by Canadian artist Jessica Woulfe

    IMAGE FROM JESSICAWOULFE.ARTSTATION.COM WEBSITE

    The future is brightby Canadian artist Jessica Woulfe

  • The Fifth Sacred Thing, by American artist Jessica Perlstein, imagines the city of San Francisco in 2048.

    IMAGE OF JESSICA PERLSTEIN . WEBSITE

    The Fifth Sacred Thingby American artist Jessica Perlstein, envisions the city of San Francisco in 2048.

  • The 5 agricultural bridges, by the French architect Vincent Callebaut, depict the reconstruction of Mosul, in Iraq, after the war.

    IMAGE OF VINCENT CALLEBAUT . WEBSITE

    The 5 agricultural bridgesby the French architect Vincent Callebaut, depicts the reconstruction of Mosul, in Iraq, after the war.

  • On the left a work by the Japanese Teikoku Shönen;  on the right, Survival module: an eco-fiction, by illustrator Maxime Bigras

    IMAGE FROM REDDIT.COM (LEFT) AND IMAGE PROVIDED BY MAXIME BIGRAS (RIGHT)

    On the left a work by the Japanese Teikoku Shönen; to the right, Survival module: an ecofictionby illustrator Maxime Bigras

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This week, at the Curé-Antoine-Labelle school (where Mélissa teaches), fourth-grade students completed their creation in their art and multimedia class. Sitting at the computer, Marie-Rose Labelle worked out the last details of her imaginary city, where the greenery thrives and the houses are all connected. “At the moment everyone has their own house, everyone does what they want, and that may not be ideal,” says the 16-year-old girl, who dreams of a greener world.

In Samy Mizi Allaoua’s creation, the water level has risen, but man has created a small green oasis on an island in the middle of nowhere. “Nature has grown back and people are alive again,” says Samy.


PHOTOGRAPH ROBERT SKINNER, THE PRESS

Melissa Nadeau

I did this project because I think teenagers need it. It is logical.

Mélissa Nadeau, visual arts teacher at the Curé-Antoine-Labelle school in Laval

A recent move

Solarpunk is a recent genre. The first documented track dates back to 2008, on a blog, and the first literary work was published in Brazil in 2012. The movement has gradually gained momentum, especially on the internet.

Montrealer Félix-Antoine Renaud has been interested in it for a few years now. In September he will do a master’s degree in literary studies on the representation of the environment in Solarpunk literature and on what Solarpunk could be in Quebec.

One of the best descriptions I’ve read of Solarpunk is that it’s a revolution of hope. We promote not only renewable technologies, but also a more open and inclusive society.

Felix-Antoine Renaud

Unlike other sci-fi genres (such as Cyberpunk and Steampunk), there’s something very current about Solarpunk, notes Félix-Antoine Renaud: Solarpunk stories could be set in the very near future. Ways of doing things that already exist are considered Solarpunk, he says. We can think of rooftop community gardens, passive habitats, or even sailing cargo ships. The No Mow May campaign, which invites people not to mow their lawns in May to pollinate insects, also has a Solarpunk feel, adds Félix-Antoine Renaud. Gender also offers a reflection on the place of work in our lives.

When she heard about the movement, visual artist Patima (real name Patricia Lapointe) realized she was a Solarpunk without even knowing it. Patima – formerly a professional make-up artist – is completing her horticulture studies. She lives with 16 roommates in a bicentennial house where a communal garden is being laid out.


PHOTO ALEXANDER SARWER-FONER

patima

Patima has forged online connections with the Solarpunk community. “It’s a movement that really does the soul good,” says Patima, who sees it as a form of “radical hopeful thinking.” “The talk of the past 10 years, especially on TV and in film, has always been the apocalypse, the end of the world. How can we make concrete changes in the present when we are in despair and we are convinced that everything is going wrong? says Patima, who is working on a Solarpunk magazine to inspire people and bring the community together.

Because of his way of life and his life choices, Patima recognizes himself as much in the “solar” element (the luminous side) as in the punk element, whereby the punk philosophy is associated with all militant, anti-capitalist, revolutionary and do it yourself


PHOTOGRAPH ROBERT SKINNER, THE PRESS

Teacher Marc-Olivier Lacroix helps students complete their futuristic urban project.

According to Félix-Antoine Renaud, Solarpunk is on the axis of the left, but the political view differs from sympathizer to sympathizer. Anarchist individuals can make Solarpunk gestures, just like socialist individuals, he says. “With the term punk we are in revolt, rebellion, but the level to which we push this rebellion will be specific to each person. †

Student works

  • Artwork by Gabrielle Kearney, 16

    IMAGE PROVIDED BY MÉLISSA NADEAU

    Artwork by Gabrielle Kearney, 16

  • Work of Diana Maria Ionescu, 16 years old

    IMAGE PROVIDED BY MÉLISSA NADEAU

    Work of Diana Maria Ionescu, 16 years old

  • Work of Anis Lallouche, 15 years old

    IMAGE PROVIDED BY MÉLISSA NADEAU

    Work of Anis Lallouche, 15 years old

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Teacher Mélissa Nadeau, for her part, did not address the political dimension in her project. What interested him was of course the aesthetic aspect, but perhaps especially the utopian side of it. “It’s beautiful and it’s great what young people have to tell us,” she said. And living a bit in utopia is good. †

The works of the Projexion project will be unveiled on June 15. They are also part of a screening that will be shown at the NUM festival in Laval in early November.

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