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Shepard Fairey Says to Obey SXSW

Graphic artists to keynote SXSW Eco 2013

By Richard Whittaker, 9:16AM, Wed. Sep. 4, 2013

One of the image's from Shepard Fairey's
One of the image's from Shepard Fairey's "Heart and Soul" poster series for the Keep a Breast Foundation's Non-Toxic Revolution campaign

When artist Shepard Fairey created the OBEY poster series, he played with the ideas and images of propaganda. Now, with the Obama HOPE print and his new work in environmentalism, he's trying to get a real message out. That's why SXSW Eco has just announced him as their final keynote speaker.

Fairey joins a speaker and panelist list of over 250 environmentalists, scientists, designers and policy makers, including and Entourage star/documentarian Adrian Grenier, freecycling innovator Adam Werbach, and Buzzcar CEO Robin Chase.

"We're always looking for creative ways to approach the issue of sustainability," said SXSW Eco program manager Chris Sonnier. However, the discussion "has become stuck in some cases," and Sonnier hopes that Fairey will be a radical change to the traditional image of enviros as pastoralists or policy wonks. Sonnier said, "He'll be a very unique keynote speaker for this space, but a lot of what we try to do is provide speakers that are very relevant but very unique. We're really excited to have Shepard Fairey attend, and he's really pumped, not just to keynote but to attend the rest of the event."

Fairey has always played with the iconography of propaganda in the abstract, but recently he has started applying it to environmental issues, most especially for the Keep a Breast Non Toxic Revolution. Sonnier said, "He did an interview recently where he talked about making a transition from the status quo, where it's less about him and more about making a future for his daughters.

In part, Fairey represents the move to make cities a communal, sustainable space. Sonnier explained d that urbanization has become a major theme in green discussions this year, especially food provision and agriculture in the urban setting. He said, "As the world continues to move to the city, that's being reflected in our programming."

That's why the conference is also today revealing the finalists in its Place by Design competition. Projects on the short list show a variety of solutions to the idea of sustainable cities, from DC's The Looper, where old river barges are used as greenhouses/water filters, to Insitu in Medellin, Colombia, which radically re-invents communal neighborhoods. Sonnier said, "The point of the contest is about re-envisioning public spaces. It's a very broad ideal that's very difficult to boil down to one or two ideas."

SXSW Eco 2013 runs October 7–9 at the Austin Convention Center, 500 E. Cesar Chavez. More info at www.sxsweco.com.

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