Jeremy McKane: Ocean Actionist

In honor of World Oceans Month, we asked Jeremy McKane, a Dallas-based artist to share about his latest project, OCN, a block-chain platform designed to create financial incentive for coastal countries to protect the ocean waters.


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You refer to yourself as someone who has made the journey from "Artist to Actionist." Can you share some of that journey and define how "Actionist" is different than "Activist"?

This is a good question and I’m glad that you asked it. Sometimes we sit around and talk about ideas and we convene for the sake of convening, yet we fail to actually come up with real solutions that we are all responsible for. Don’t get me wrong, I know that awareness plays a very vital role in all of this, but we need to start taking action now. 


What initially drew you to the ocean from an artistic perspective, and then as a cause?

I think the ocean is one of those kinds of things you can easily just look and stare at.  There is something that is intrinsically connected to humans and the ocean. Granted, most likely it is because that is where we all came from. So it stands to reason that, if all life as we know it is from the deepest depths of the ocean, then I think it’s important for us to do whatever we can to protect her seeing how we are the ones so responsible for her destruction.



Tell us more about your work with OCN and the OCEAN Summit that took place earlier this year at Necker Island.

As an artist, I would constantly connect myself with like-minded people. I found that, while I created works about the ocean and the tragedy is facing the oceans, many times I fell short of real actionable tasks be done to protect her.  But year and a half ago I created a company called the Ocean Currency Network, a platform and concept that allowed the monetization of life living below the surface of the ocean. My hope was that all sovereign nations would have a financial motivation to protect the ocean. 

There are a lot of people that are working in this particular space, not all of them I will work with, but I feel that there needed to be a place where people could focus on action and Necker Island presented itself to me. My friend Susi Mai who was currently working on projects on Necker Island reached out to me and from there we came up with the idea to do an event where politicians, artists, entrepreneurs, investors, and storytellers would all convene in the exact same space and talk about action. 

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How has your work with OCEAN tied to your life in Dallas, a decidedly non-coastal city? 

As a fellow human I breathe air and every second breath comes from the ocean. Regardless whether I am on the shore or in the middle of the United States I am still breathing air that was created by the ocean. It’s this simple fact that is the basis for the reasoning behind the unification of all humans on this planet to do something to protect the oceans. We cannot simply sit here and expect someone else to fix the problem.



When did you first experience the power of creating something with global impact? Did you grow up in an activist type of family?

I remember working in Australia thinking that the pollution was pretty bad and that someone should do something about this mess. I thought maybe some kids could come up and do a beach clean up. Maybe we all could? Then I realized that I had a voice as an Artist and that could be used to tell a story we could all be part of. My parents were not activists but they always taught us boys the importance of what we have on this planet. We were taught that God gave us a beautiful home. Why would we directly or indirectly harm it? I suppose everything I do is built upon these basic principles.


Are you still creating artwork? What is your most recent project?

All the time, you can see my latest works at saatchiart.com/mckane, and my installation LUCiD is currently traveling with the G7 Presidential Summit and German Ministry. On June 10th, I’m doing something I don’t do very often and that’s opening up the pool to people that would like to be photographed underwater. People can visit mckane.com for more details. Then on July 20th 2019, I’m selling over 15 pieces to benefit Blue Ocean Institute. There will also be a live performance in a glass bottom pool so you get to experience what it feels like to be the underwater photographer! 

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As you've travelled around the world, whose story has shifted your perspective most?

Indigenous knowledge. Understanding that the planet is to be cared after and not taken from. I spent time on The MY Dardanella thanks to TBA21 sailing through the Lau Group of Fiji. There we stopped in several remote villages and how they live should be scaled up to the rest of the planet. A basic understanding of a TAPU is a forbidden fishing zone. Allows the fish to regenerate and then they release the TAPU allowing fishing to resume. The value of the commons is of most importance and I believe the key to future survival on spaceship earth lies in our past.

I am also the co-host of The Ocean Summit on Necker Island. The wisdom shared in this small circle is absolutely amazing! Its made a huge impact for sure!



Who is someone that has paved the way for your work, both in art and action?

Hands down Francesca von Habsburg and Markus Reymann. They believed in me when few would give me a chance. 



Do you have a favorite spot in Dallas?

Murray Street Coffee. It is like a coffee version of Cheers where a lot of creatives hang. 


If someone wants to get involved in OCN, what steps should they take?

We are looking for anyone with crazy ideas on how to protect our oceans with a mission to protect 30% by 2030 is someone I’d like to meet with. We need more crew members


If you know someone who is Doing Good in Dallas, we'd love to hear about it! Share their story with us.


Interview by Mary Martin. Photos courtesy of Jeremy McKane.

Mary Martin