“Interview with Justin Brown”

Justin Brown is an Indianapolis-based visual/audio/sensory/performance artist with a focus on science and surveillance. Justin will have his piece which features a long list of chemicals found in the water, air and soil and their effects on our well-being, shown at the Sierra Club Hoosier Chapter exhibition, Environmental Justice in Indiana, in May and June at the Indiana Interchurch Center. More information on the exhibition can be found here.

Q1: What is your biggest inspiration as an artist?

My biggest inspiration as an artist is the plethora of art that doesn’t exist yet that I can make and fill that need. An example would be works that take a critical examination of society without any opinion to it just facts presented as facts. Hopefully consciousness can be commodified or capitalism will die; either way we have work to do and the people that care the most are most of the time impoverished like myself.

Q2: What role do you see artists having in the environmental or social justice movements? How important is art in these contexts?

Traditional thought, at least in the black community, is that art is not art if it contains no critique. So on one hand you have art mediums that are widely financially supported in Indianapolis such as Thomas Kinkade nature paintings, but these works do not at all explore what existential threats have existed and are manifesting every day from industrial waste, chemical use for pesticides, and general pollution. On the other hand, art that takes critical looks at the problems of society aren’t typically financially supported because consumers would rather invest in escapism.

Q3: What do you think are the biggest environmental challenges we face in Indiana?

People’s lack of consciousness when it comes to our resource quality. Indiana has a small to mid major economic market but ranks among the worst air in the nation. Indianapolis has some of the worst kept waterways in the country. Nearly on par with Flint but water was privatized, and no one drinks it or keeps in mind their skin drinks it every time they shower. Our other major problem is our soil. Raytheon and every other manufacturer have left hot zones and ruined soil all over both the east side and west side where poor minorities live so no one cares.

Q4: What is your one hope for the future of the environment in our state?

That everybody wakes up and focuses on our health and the health of our environment and how it’s tied to our physical and mental health and that we are in pain when mother earth is in pain because we were borne from her.

You can find him on Instagram @blacklipbasquiatbunel

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