Artist Molly Crabapple Explains Why She Collaborated With Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to Imagine a Greener Future

In a video produced for The Intercept, Crabapple illustrates a story written and narrated by Ocasio-Cortez.

A still from the video, “A Message From the Future With Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
A still from the video, “A Message From the Future With Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez."

What does it take to imagine a greener future?

For artist Molly Crabapple and US Congressional Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the answer is 30 hours of painting footage and 100 hours of video editing. That’s the amount of time it took to create the now-viral seven and a half-minute video imagining what the future might have looked like if Congress had approved the Green New Deal, a sprawling, wildly ambitious climate reform resolution proposed earlier this year by Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Ed Markey.

In reality, the proposal, which called for “smart” power grids, zero-emission energy sources, and a complete overhaul of the country’s transportation systems, was struck down in a vote last month.

The video, produced for The Intercept in collaboration with author Naomi Klein and directors Kim Boekbinder and Jim Batt, features time-lapse footage of Crabapple illustrating a story written and narrated by the young congresswoman.

Speaking from a hypothetical future timeline, Ocasio-Cortez describes looking back to 2019, when she was a freshman representative in New York, frequently riding the bullet train to DC. She then paints a picture, figuratively, of a future in which the government takes drastic steps to combat climate change and reduce our reliance on fossil fuels—while Crabapple paints that picture literally.

“When you’re dealing with subject matter that’s as complicated, a way to draw people in is to accompany it with art,” the artist tells artnet News. “There’s something about people watching my hands draw out all the pictures that makes them want to follow along to see what happens at the end.”

The artist and congresswoman have a lot in common. Crabapple was born and raised in Queens, the daughter of a Puerto Rican father. Ocasio-Cortez grew up in the Bronx to Puerto Rican parents. Crabapple began following Ocasio-Cortez’s career a couple of years ago, and made phone calls for her campaign in 2018.

“She was someone I just thought was a bad-ass before she even got into office,” Crabapple says. She recalls seeing Ocasio-Cortez speak at a rally for the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Maria—the moment she became convinced the politician was bound for big things. “She just gave this speech that was so fucking beautiful and so real. And it was all extemporaneous; it wasn’t off of notes or anything. It was something that was really special to me.”

A still from the video, “A Message From the Future With Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez."

A still from the video, “A Message From the Future With Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.”

Crabapple has worked with Boekbinder and Batt to produce similar videos before, including a 2016 one narrated by Jay-Z recounting the war on drugs.

When asked how she would respond to those who claim the Green New Deal is too lofty, too idealistic, and too unrealistic, Crabapple said, “I think it’s much more unrealistic to think that we’re just going to submit to having our homes burned every year in wildfires while our grandparents die from lack of electricity because the power grid was knocked out by a storm. To me that sounds like a much more unrealistic thing to accustom ourselves to than building bullet trains.”


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