When artist Justin Brice Guariglia became a father, his moral compass inevitably shifted. Among other things, that meant making the world’s current ecological crisis front and center in his practice. Through photography, sculpture, and installation, Guariglia creates work that is hopeful of the future, while bringing awareness to the fight against climate change. He encourages viewers to engage in dialogue and challenge the status quo.
WHITEWALL: When did your artistic practice begin to focus more on our current ecological crisis?
JUSTIN BRICE GUARIGLIA: While I’ve always had an affinity for the natural world, becoming a parent, really shifted my compass towards the future. When you become a parent, ethics, morals, and values move front and center. And when they did, I noticed that the ecological crisis was the elephant in the room. Responding to it is frankly the moral imperative of our time, so I felt a strong need to respond. I’m with Camu who said, “those of us that can speak have a responsibility to do so.”
WW: How do you move between photography, sculpture, and installation in your practice?
JBG: Each medium you mentioned is like it’s own language. Each of us receives (and perceives) information in different ways, so varying languages allows artists to appeal to a greater audience, engage them in a dialogue, and hopefully motivate them to think about the issues being addressed.
WW: What kind of message are you trying to convey to viewers or your work?
JBG: I make the work I make because I am hopeful for our future. Art is an amazing tool that can help foster change by dynamically shaping our culture, and right now the shift we need is to broadly raise greater public awareness on the ecological crisis, and encourage action at all levels. I hope that when people view my art, that they will feel compelled to join this dialogue.
WW: What is the role of the artist, do you think, in combating climate change?
JBG: As the world becomes more disorientating, art will play a more critical role in society because of its unique ability to make reality apparent. Art can help us question and challenge our existing moral, philosophical and ethical assumptions—in that way, art can transform us, our society, and our politics.
WW: How will you be transforming the marquee signs along Broadway during Summit LA19?
JBG: As the French philosopher Bruno Latour has noted, the problems in understanding climate change—in the geographical, geological, social, and political senses—is one of language, of translating huge and often abstract databases and events into a language that humans can comprehend.
My project for Summit LA19 involves displaying eco-haikus on theater marquees along Broadway. The text is a mix of aphorisms that have been written by myself, and by the philosopher Timothy Morton, whom I’ve been collaborating with for the past few years.
The eco-haikus, while playful, are rather serious, and function to expand our collective vocabulary and language to better communicate the vast existential issues around climate change, global warming, and ecological crisis.
WW: While in Los Angeles for Summit this fall, what are you looking forward to seeing/doing?
JBG: I’ve been flying on missions with NASA since 2015, so when I visit Los Angeles, I usually drop by NASA JPL and check in with the scientists, and try to download more knowledge from these amazing folks.
It would also be great to finally visit the La Brea Tar Pits which I’ve missed on my previous visits. The connection between deep time, the Anthropocene, the tar pits and my work is pretty relevant. In fact, I have three public art works entitled We Are The Asteroid, which is a collaboration with Timothy Morton traveling around the country as we speak.