Acting Out: Art that Changes the World
‘We don’t have to accept our world as it is, the ways we’re told we should navigate it,’ Steve Lambert has argued. ‘The democratic ideal [is] that we’re not subject to culture: we can create it.’
The guerrilla artist and founder of the New York-based Center for Artistic Activism makes work that is funny, meaningful, accessible and often radical – raising questions about image culture, advertising and the basis of capitalism itself. At this Melbourne Fringe panel discussion, hosted by Mama Alto, Lambert and Melbourne artist Jax Jacki Brown talk about their methods and motivations in making work that seeks to change the world.
How can art ignite social change? When does activist art become preachy and boring?
This event was presented in partnership with Melbourne Fringe and Arts House.
Mama Alto is a jazz singer, cabaret artiste and gender transcendent diva. She is a transgender and queer person of colour who works with the radical potential of storytelling, strength in softness and power in vulnerability. In addition to her excellence as a performing artist, she is a writer of intelligence and sensitivity.
She has performed original spoken word and pieces of new writing for Melbourne Writers Festival, Queerstories, Emerging Writers' Festival and Word In Hand. Her writing has been published in the Age, Archer Magazine, Querelle 2018, the Music, and Melbourne Recital Centre's Soundescapes, and she has contributed chapters to Queerstories (ed. Maeve Marsden, Hachette Australia 2018) and Living & Loving in Diversity (ed. Maria Pallotta-Chiarolli, Wakefield Press and AGMC 2019).
Steve Lambert was a Senior Fellow at New York’s Eyebeam Center for Art and Technology from 2006-2010, developed and led workshops for Creative Capital Foundation, co-directs the Center for Artistic Activism, and is an Assistant Professor at SUNY Purchase.
His projects and art works have won awards from Prix Ars Electronica, Rhizome/The New Museum, the Creative Work Fund, Adbusters Media Foundation, the California Arts Council, and others. Lambert’s work has been shown everywhere from museums to protest marches nationally and internationally, featured in over fourteen books, four documentary films, and is in the collections of The Sheldon Museum, the Progressive Insurance Company, and The Library of Congress. Lambert has discussed his work live on NPR, the BBC, and CNN, and been reported on internationally in outlets including Associated Press, the New York Times, the Guardian, Harper’s Magazine, the Believer, Good, Dwell, ARTnews, Punk Planet, and Newsweek.
‘We must adopt an intersectional approach to understanding the experiences of the LGBTIQA+ community with disabilities. Intersectionality provides us with a political framework to understand how multiple forms of discrimination are experienced and lived ... our identities don’t exist in a vacuum, they overlap and inform each other.’
Jax is a passionate activist committed to addressing the disadvantages LGBTIQA+ people with disability face. They adopt a social model perspective where disability is created by structural exclusion and ableism. Through their extensive work as a writer, workshop and forum presenter, university lecturer, spoken-word performer and theatre producer, Brown aims to challenge disability stereotypes and spotlight serious issues for change.