Jenn Arras uses the wide breadth of her transdisciplinary art practices to inform her collage work as profoundly as she uses the influential diversity of cultures in which she has lived. The impressions of music (particularly punk), poetry (in any of the three languages she is fluent in), and video arts (ranging from her formal education to her favored DIY aesthetic) are sensed throughout Arras’ work, weaving through moments born of the past, intertwined with anxieties of the present, to proffer potential dystopias of the future.
In her “Eco-Anxiety” series, Arras uses a cyperpunk aesthetic as the foundation for one of these imagined futures, creating a surreally toxic world of fluorescent colors set against worn and faded backgrounds. Bursting out of the stagnation, however, are courageous flowers and plants daring to bloom; figures refusing to be silent but instead questioning the world, and our bland acceptance of it; and dynamic words breaking up the hopelessness or detachment which often overpowers dystopian art. “Eco-Anxiety” is in response to the broader complacency and accompanying apathy, which are the common reactions to coping with the intensely difficult issues facing us contemporarily, not the least of which is climate change:
“At times, the work of living feels like repeated attempts to defrost as we carry around with us a profound sadness and sense of loss. Dystopia refers to literal destruction but also of the mind—mental ennui, drug use and desensitisation—in the face of the great suffering of the planet, and its people and animals. We know we feel loss, but we cannot name its culprit; whether globalisation or digital disconnect or (especially) ignoring indigenous ways of knowing, we spiritually rob ourselves.”
Arras unreservedly portrays a world of ennui and suffering, but it is also a world in which there is the possibility of hope. Not the whim of a passive hope searching for a savior, but the dynamic and courageous action of true hope, charged with the strength to break through the dystopia in order to fight for a better way.