In 2013, Typhoon Haiyan devastated Southeast Asia. The typhoon, one of the most powerful ever recorded, was a pivotal moment for Filipino artist Bricx Martillo Dumas, aka “ShrimpPaste”. Seeing the destruction that extreme weather and changing climate is capable of inflicting, Bricx dedicated himself from that point on to a life of eco-activism and education.
More recently in November 2021, Bricx’s NFT entitled Nexus won first place at the DigitalArt4Climate Art Competition — an event that brought together over two hundred NFT artists from fifty-eight countries, all working at the intersection of art, technology and climate action in the hopes of inspiring a cleaner future. Contrasting motifs of the organic and artificial, the living and dead, his poignant artwork visualises the negative impact that our everyday actions can have upon the planet, the ecosystem and ourselves.
“It was really an overwhelming experience, especially because sharing the current climate change problems in the Philippines to the world is a big move and is something that is not done often,” says Bricx about what his win means for himself and for his country.
Born in 1991 in Leyte, Bricx draws inspiration from art styles like Surrealism and Fauvism, employing vibrant colours and emotional intensity in both traditional and digital artworks. Passionate about Filipino culture and youth education, Bricx uses his talent to raise awareness for climate change in his home country.
“We have various environmental groups, but the movement is not given the spotlight,” says Bricx, explaining that other basic needs like food and housing tend to be prioritised. “But I have also noticed that since 2015, a lot of big corporations have been shifting to greener, more efficient and sustainable ways, which is a really good move."
Having spent his childhood in a costal community, Bricx credits his upbringing for his close relationship with nature. "I have always been exposed to nature since I grew up in the province of Leyte," he explains. "When you step outside your house, nature is there. I guess respecting nature has a deeper meaning for me since it taught me everything I needed."
On top of making NFTs, Bricx is also an avid photographer, using his camera to capture the natural beauty of his home, inspiring future generations to better appreciate and take care of it.
Since moving to the city, he continues to build his bond with the natural world through his involvement with U.P. Mountaineers, an organisation in the Philippines that advocates for environmental awareness and the protection of its natural habitats.
Bricx channels his love of nature and animals through his art, hoping to inspire others and spark real change. He explains, for instance, how after visiting a Philippine Eagle sanctuary in 2019, he was greatly saddened to see such a magnificent creature in captivity due to illegal poaching and deforestation. In response, he sold his a work called Banog as prints, and with the help of Philippines-based artist initiative ShelterFund, part of the sales were donated to an organisation dedicated to the conservation of these majestic birds.
Since winning the competition, Bricx has made appearances on a number of platforms, including CNN and WSJ+, where he has continued to educate audiences about the climate movement and the possibilities of NFT art in igniting climate action.
Despite some of the misconceptions surrounding NFTs, Bricx is hopeful, calling the emerging technology a “game changer”. While many associate the blockchain with a negative environmental impact, he explains, sustainable alternatives and activist artists are proving this assumption wrong.
“As technology develops, I believe there will be better improvements for the whole NFT system for the years to come,” he says.
In the past year, Bricx has released three contributions to the collective chain work of Exquisite Workers and has been featured in the first ever physical calendar of NFTs for 2022. He is set to release his second NFT with Exquisite Workers on DoinGud, a community-curated platform inspired by and aligned with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals that mints its works on Polygon, a sustainable blockchain alternative.
One of his most recent contributions to the Exquisite Workers chain is an image of a tiger, made in reference to the upcoming year of the Water Tiger in the Chinese calendar.
For the upcoming year, Bricx has big plans that include releasing more art and continuing to work with organisations and brands to amplify the fight against climate change. In the future, he says, he'd like to bring his voice to the fashion industry, maybe even creating his own sustainable fashion line for the local Filipino community as he continues to harness the power of art and technology for the protection of our planet.
“Should we wait for another typhoon stronger than Haiyan just to realise that the world is suffering from mass extinction,” he asks us, “or should we be the change that the world needs? Our time is now.”