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Raising the Ecology Emergency Flag

By Maja and Reuben Fowkes
In Jindřich Chalupecký Award 2019 
(Brno: Moravian Gallery, 2019)

At the 2019 edition of the Pohoda music festival, which took place in an abandoned military airfield near Trenčín, Slovak artist Oto Hudec installed a Flag of the Blue Planet. Conceived as a reinterpretation of the flag that peace activist John McConnell envisioned in 1969 for the first Earth Day celebration featuring the planet at its centre, half a century later Hudec’s version left a gaping hole where the Earth should be. Whereas the original dramatized the finite ecological boundaries of the Earth, warning about the limits to uncontrolled and unreflecting economic growth, the message from the contemporary remake is far more uncertain, pointing to the actual threat to the continuity of biological life itself on the imperilled planet. The disobedient act of cutting out the symbols from national flags is a recurring phenomenon in East European revolutionary histories, when protestors expressed their radical discontent and rejection of existing systems. A similar sentiment of fundamental disagreement with the inaction of political bodies in the face of unfolding environmental breakdown runs through the resurgent climate protests of today. The fact that the flag of ecological urgency was raised in a festival setting, which could be seen as a playground for grassroots democracy since it provides an open platform for the communication and sharing of empowering ideas, skills and knowledge, shows new territories of intersectional allegiance between contemporary art, ecological activism and youth cultures.