Radical art from the grassroots


Sydney’s inner-west played host to the inaugural Live Red Art event. The festival of radical art drew a crowd of more than 400 people to the Addison Road Community Centre in Marrickville on October 17.

The Great Hall was transformed into a makeshift gallery, with three walls constructed from 250 milk crates stacked six high and fastened with cable ties and string to house print and mixed-media works.

From the stage hung an Aboriginal flag, underneath which computers on red plastic crates screened video-media created by the Newcastle-based Sydney Academy of Emergency Art film-maker Simon Cunich.

The hall’s brick walls displayed a collection of historical political posters in support of liberation struggles in East Timor, Ireland and Palestine, among others.

The exhibition showcased the work of 25 artists from Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra, Newcastle and Hobart. The art sought to foster solidarity with political struggles around the world, with the theme: “Another world is possible, but we must fight for it.”

The works showed how art can be used to promote activism. Topics explored included anti-war activism, refugee rights, action on climate change, feminism, addiction, sustainability and reuse, Aboriginal rights, communication and censorship, as well as the commodification of resources and people.

Outside the hall, the Socialist Alliance hosted a DIY badge-making stall. Children created mini-badges exclaiming “I love you!” and teenagers used the opportunity to comment on LGBTI equality.

Many people got loud with the Wilderness Society’s Samba Crew and took home new percussion skills after taking part in the samba workshops.

A stage area was set up outside the hall, in front of the amphitheatre-like lawns. With blue skies, many took advantage of the bar and BBQ to kick back in the afternoon and enjoy the Greenslide after-party line-up.

Newcastle hip-hop duo Dhopec kicked off the party, performing a 45-minute set while spray-painting aerosol art that encouraged revolution and solidarity with oppressed minorities.

Musician Jeremy Harrison played a laid-back acoustic guitar session, including his event submission, “Better Place” — a song about people’s desire to improve their existence.

Billie Rose Prichard joined the Daily Meds for a high-energy hip hop set.

Day of the Meerkat’s loud alternate rockabilly had the crowd dancing before the winners of the awards were announced.

Roxanne Jones won the Live Red Art Award for her painting titled “The Iranian Prince and the Nigerian Pauper (world's fattest baby and NOMA victim)”.

Jones’ confronting work looks at the inequality capitalism produces. The piece addresses the harsh disparity between wealth and poverty by drawing attention to the startling extremes of “disfigurement” fostered at each end of the economic spectrum.

The “people’s choice” award, as voted by attendees, was won by Sydney artist Ro Murray, who created a large sculpture titled “Blue Gold” as a commentary on selling Australian fresh water overseas.

Made entirely from recycled poly water piping and held together with cable ties, the work comments on a variety of issues, including the commodification of natural elements like water.

As the sun set over Addison Road, the Fuji Collective closed the event with its mix of jazz and funk.

A day-long fusion of music festival and art exhibition, Live Red Art showcased an imaginative interaction in activism, heralding a unique format for future cultural events.

Finalist Farida Iqbal, a Socialist Alliance activist from Canberra, explained the inclusive community-minded grassroots style of Live Red Arts: “I was raised to feel a deep disdain for the parasitical complex of critics and gallery owners that not only sap the life out of art, but also routinely exploit the artists.

“Art is also often taught wrong in high school and university, turning it into something overly academic and making young people too self-conscious about it. I think this is to do with capitalism and we need a complete cultural change about how we view the arts.”

The Live Red Art collective is looking forward to working with local artists and activists for future cultural events, including cinema nights, publications, art exhibits and gigs.

More than a one-day event, Live Red Art is a call to action. To get involved, email liveredartawards@gmail.com