I first met Harper Cowan over the summer in New York, when she was interviewing Carlen Altman at The Deep End Club for Anima Rising, her joint project with Jesse Eve. The three of us had an in-depth conversation about many of the issues wrong with the world today, and how we could enact change in a way that would be effective and long lasting. Anima Rising is now working on launching a new film, Ways of Living, which documents the two girls’ journey through the United States in search of alternative eco-villages. You can also help their production process by contributing to their Indiegogo here!
You guys met at Nylon Magazine, which is very much about fast fashion. Can you describe how you guys got around to chatting about alternative/sustainable & communal lifestyles?
Jesse: We rocked up at Nylon seven years ago, because we were both drawn to a contemporary, left-field aesthetic, and still are. I was a fashion student, thinking about setting up my own magazine one day. My small-town heart wanted to explore the bright lights of Manhattan’s fashion world, but I knew even then that I wouldn’t stay in the style industry forever. I felt more at home sneaking around the forest with my friends at night with a candle and a beer. It was a slow awakening throughout my twenties, and Harper’s was in a parallel timeframe to mine. I think we’re all waking up, collectively. It just takes a while.
What was the process of founding Anima Rising like, and how did you come up with the name?
Harper : On January 7th, 2013, I emailed Jess – I needed to take a break from waitressing and the city – I had had this idea to roadtrip around America making a documentary about communes. Jess had a hankering to come back, and we were both interested in exploring alternative ways of living. So then she flew to me in March and we started filming in April!
Jesse: The project had a feeling of something much bigger than us. It was the right time, and I think we were overdue with inspiration and enthusiasm to work together. The name Anima Rising we took from one of our favorite songs, Don’t Interrupt the Sorrow, by absolute songbird goddess, Joni Mitchell. Anima is a Jungian term for feminine tendencies in the psyche. Anima Rising, for us, is the hope that the world will heal from a rising wave of feminine energy. We are all interconnected, and true joy comes from the recognition of that connection.
Tell us a little bit about your current projects, Wild Women and the Ways of Living Film.
Harper : Wild Women is a collection of interviews with and recordings of amazing people that we meet along the way – artists, musicians, activists, farmers, anyone that is using feminine energy to make a positive difference in this world. Ways Of Living is the documentary film that we’ve been working on since April – it’s an exploration of more sustainable, communal ways of living. It feels like bad decisions are being made all around, but I don’t think that’s a reflection of the quality of people, I think it’s an unfortunate circumstance that we’ve reached through corruption, greed and misinformation. I hope that our film will help inspire people by showing that there are other ways to live.
What can people do to help us move to a better place?
Harper : I have a hard time a lot of days reconciling these two paradigms I’m living in – I spend my days with sweet, sensitive organic farmers, or people raising their children in ecovillages, but there are also crazy things like fracking happening. It’s heavy! Revolution is coming – more people are suffering from a lower quality of life, a rise of economic disparity, and a slew of other injustices. I hope we can transition to a sustainable way of living before we reach the point of no return. I’m looking to thinkers like Russell Brand, Daniel Pinchbeck, Naomi Klein, Buckminster Fuller, and Bill McKibben to light the way. On an individual scale there’s a lot we can do – vote with your dollar, consume less, share more, think locally, build community. We need to take an active role in making this world the way we want to be.
What do you guys think of the scene in New York? In my 3 short months there I found these pockets of social consciousness like at the Deep End Club and the Center of Planetary Culture. It was so eye opening and crazy inspiring.
Harper : I love New York – it’s home to some incredibly powerful and conscientious people. I’ve met so many like-minded folk. I’m so grateful for Body Actualized Center, CPC, farmers markets, urban farms like Brooklyn Grange and Bushwick City Farm, yoga studios, powerful healers. There’s a real sense of community and an interest in acting on a local level. There’s a lot of room for change and improvement in New York – but New Yorkers are powerful, man. I really do love that city.
What was the road tripping for the Ways of Living film like? I imagine this probably wasn’t your guys’ first road trip…
Jesse: We laugh now when we look at photos of our clean selves on the day we left New York City. There was a feeling like something great might happen, but the untangling that is taking place for both of us has been beyond our wildest imaginings. It’s been depressing to delve into the realness of the earth’s situation in 2014 – it’s something uncomfortable to submerge myself in. But I wouldn’t take it back for anything. I feel an alertness and purpose that wasn’t within me before. I feel tuned into people now. Physically, it’s been sometimes uncomfortable: if we’re not sleeping in our car, we’re shivering in a tent, or living in someone else’s space. It’s been the best thing I’ve ever done. We’ve been opening up to what it means to be alive, and my brain feels switched on and ready to keep learning and challenging me with new places, people, and projects of love.
What are some future projects that you guys hope to pursue? Where do you see yourselves and Anima Rising 3 years from now?
Jesse: We’re fantasizing about organizing a tour for some of the musicians I’ve met on this trip. We’ll travel and play shows, fill up each town with LOVE, and leave behind feelings of worth and gratitude. We want to heal the world. There’s also talk of a book – I have an embarrassing stack of self-help literature under my bed, and we’re both thinking we’d like to put pen to paper about a lot of the lessons we’ve learned this year. The projects are endless, and sometimes I feel a little shy about the naive optimism laced through Anima Rising, but I have to remind myself that it’s the only way we’re going to share our message. Hopeful is the only way to be.
Thank you guys so much for sharing your experiences with us!
Indiegogo Fundraiser: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/ways-of-living-a-consciousness-raising-film
*Interview has been condensed.