AIR Pledger Carla Scotto embraces creative activism through graphic design.
Carla Scotto is a Melbourne-based graphic designer and self-described "drawer of sad truths." She has something to say, the courage to say it, and the sense of humor to cushion some crucial reality checks. The truth hurts. Carla wields imagination and a pen to bring comedy to the disturbing and simplicity to the complex via self-aware illustrations that punctuate the banality of humanity's more self-destructive tendencies. It's funny — how skilled and speedy we are in our own demise. It's also sad, but only if we choose to do nothing. Especially when it comes to plastic.
In response to Parley AIR, Carla created a series of graphics that spotlight society’s plastic addiction and the thinking, or lack thereof, behind it. Read on.
What (experience) made you want to illustrate environmental issues?
I worked in retail and saw the amount of plastic waste generated on a daily basis. It made me notice how it's everywhere, and the sheer mass of it all was so overwhelming. However, it also seemed like people weren't questioning the presence of plastic in single-use items, nor searching for alternatives. I wanted to point out the oddity of what we consider normal.
How do you think humor has the ability to capture people's attention better than beauty or fear have?
Beauty definitely plays a huge part in keeping people interested in conservation, as it serves as a reminder of what's at stake — and there is so much to lose. However humor is a massive part of my life and personality, so using it in my art is simply second nature. It helps to present the hurtful truth while taking the edge off a little. I could create aesthetically appealing artworks, and I do to keep me sane, but I prefer making people uncomfortable as well as making them think.
What do you aim to 'trigger' with your illustrations?
I want people to start thinking about their choices in their day-to-day lives, and on a large scale I want people to realize that they can make an impact without waiting for their governments to take ownership of the problem. In Australia, politics has been stagnant for a while, people are pushing for change in policy but ultimately we are considerably far behind, unlike countries such as France. Every ban in Australia is met with obscene delays and mass hesitation, that in itself is so discouraging – to be so far behind and yet so slow to act.
You hope to actually change people's minds, not just entertain them. What's your approach?
Ultimately I make these illustrations to shine an unflattering light on how problematic we are as consumers. It's disheartening to read about people being apathetic towards something as sensical as a plastic bag ban. People need to learn to be selfless, because without a healthy environment — we have nothing. I often use guilt in my illustrations alongside humor, it's almost like a light scolding. I've had people discuss with me how they've made changes after being subjected to my not so subliminal messages. It's effective, however I haven't been able to test it on a widely apathetic audience, as people who appreciate my art are likely to already care about the environment.
How do you reduce plastic waste in your everyday life?
I'll never accept a plastic bag as I use a backpack, I won't buy bottled water unless I'm somewhere where clean water isn't on tap, I eat in or drink in, or I have a keep cup. I bring a container with me to take leftovers home from a restaurant. Purchasing food in bulk helps minimize waste too. Straws are the devil, too, I'm pretty vocal about it when I'm at a bar. I make mistakes and often it is unavoidable, but ultimately you should try — and you should care.
In your experience, what’s the easiest plastic item to avoid?
Definitely plastic bottles. However it's not just about avoiding plastic where possible, it's about boycotting — especially in terms of excess. Here in Australia it's very common to see fruit and veg being bundled up in plastic everything in the main supermarket chains. Shopping local makes a huge difference. Convenience has become a mindless priority, and we need to criticize these businesses for producing waste on such an unprecedented level.
Do you sometimes feel overwhelmed by the huge number and complexity of environmental threats? Do you try to cover all of them, or how do you pick certain ones to focus on?
I'm constantly overwhelmed, but doing nothing is criminal. I pick and choose ones that are chewable and are often so simple that anyone could follow. Plastic is easier because of how excessive the problem is, and how everyone contributes to it, so therefore everyone must take responsibility. Plastic is related to oil and non-renewable energies, so I often tie in those as well. Personally I don't think I'm making a huge ripple effect, I'd like to reach more people, however I wouldn't be posting anything if it wasn't satiating something within me. I am full of fear and dread for the future, and it's completely unfair that climate change has been an ever-present threat to us all, and I'm tired of human inaction. It's already affecting various islands around the world, will it take an armageddon-like situation for people to make a move on the problem? Probably, but I can't wait for that.
How important is simplicity regarding messaging, especially in today's society?
People consume information at such a high-speed, that simplicity is key in terms of information retention. It has to be memorable or they'll merge with cat videos and forgettable Buzzfeed articles.
Where do you hope to see your illustrations in the future?
On walls, huge murals in the heart of the city. Something pervasive and confronting.
If the oceans could speak, what do you think they would say about the plastic pollution they face?
They wouldn't speak, they would choke and splutter.