Art and activism reimagine the future

22 June 2015

Artists have a critical role in creating a new future according to internationally renowned activist Alex Kelly; an idea to be explored this week on the Gold Coast.  

As a filmmaker, producer and activist Alex Kelly is well placed to explore the concept of art, activism and their role in social change.  

Ms Kelly will tell a story about Radically re-imagining the world as our climate changes.  

“I'll be exploring the critical role of artists in imagining the future,” Ms Kelly said.  

“And the need for new narratives to respond to crisis, to see climate change as an opportunity and a gift to create a more just world.  

“There is no way that we’ll be able to make the deep and urgent shifts we need to make to respond to the climate crisis and crisis of inequality without a radical re-imagining of our world.  

“It must be the artists, the poets, the culture and story makers who provide us new, ridiculous, playful and beautiful ideas to help us see in our minds the myriad possible ways we can, and must, remake our world,” she said.  

As a resident of Alice Springs, she’s looking forward to being by the ocean and connecting with the local creative community.  

“Events like 2970° are so important for sharing ideas, having conversations and connecting with people across different work practices and approaches to social change. I am especially excited about events like this that take place outside the major cities,” Ms Kelly said.  

The City of Gold Coast-backed event, 2970° The Boiling Point, is a cross-sector forum with a difference. It responds to Bernard Salt’s Beyond the Horizon report commissioned by the City and released earlier this year. The report called for a MONA effect, a catalyst to transform the Gold Coast through art and culture. And 2970° is the seed to start the transformation.   The event will examine the space where arts, science, technology, architecture and sport meet through a series of exhibitions, performances, provocations and conversations.  

Alex Kelly has spent the better part of last year in New York, involved on a project called This Changes Everything with Canadian author and social activist Naomi Klein and her journalist and documentary-maker husband Avi Lewis.  

“A lot of my work is about finding ways to put the book and film at the service of movements,” she said.

And the climate movement is just one of those. She lists anti-fracking, labour rights, access to public transport and Black Lives Matter amongst others.  

“I really think about how we can share our platform and the convening power that a powerful thinker like Naomi has, to bring people together to have a conversation to reframe climate change,” she said.  

“And we’re really looking at climate change not as a green issue, but as an economic issue and unpacking why some people don’t want to take action, realising that a lot of that is connected to their interest in maintaining the economic status quo.”  

“We’re always told that our current system is the status quo, that it’s normal and inevitable.  

“But we can see from droughts, floods, fires, bank bailouts, economic collapses, that there is a lot of upheaval and change happening all the time. So we actually need different stories to think about how we respond to that and to be able to think that we can all play a part in creating a different future,” she said.  

Alex Kelly is a firm believer the future is something we can all shape in the present.  

“In some ways I don’t think the future I imagine is that much different to now except that we won’t have as big a gap between the extremely wealthy and the rest of us,” Ms Kelly said.  

“And we will see the majority of people given access to education, health care, transport – because if we have a society where everybody has access to be healthy and to participate in that society, we’re going to see a much more innovative and creative world because everyone will have the opportunity to express their potential.”  

2970° is part of a wider strategic direction to accelerate the development of the arts and culture and position the Gold Coast as a place that is distinct, pioneering and unexpected in its cultural offer. Underway for more than a year the roll out of the City’s Culture Strategy 2023 has included increased arts funding, an elevation of Indigenous culture, development of contemporary music and public art plans and new approaches to professional development and funding models.  

Editor Notes    

Alex Kelly Alex is an Alice Springs based filmmaker, producer and activist who works in communications strategy and cultural organising. She is committed to social justice and was the Creative Producer for Big hART’s award-winning Ngapartji Ngapartji project from 2005-2010. Ngapartji Ngapartji means I give you something, you give me something in Pitjantjatjara – a concept of reciprocity and exchange. 

Alex has been on the board of a range of media, arts and political organisations including Arid Lands Environmental Centre, RedHOT Arts, Engage Media, was an artistic consultant to the Art at the Heart Regional Arts Conference in 2008 and in 2011 was Community Liaison Adviser to former leader of The Greens Bob Brown. She has worked on collective projects in environmental conservation, community development and media production in communities as diverse as in Coober Pedy, Alice Springs, Amsterdam, Barcelona, New York, Cochabamba and London.  

She won the Australia Council for the Arts ‘Kirk Robson Award’ in 2009 and the Screen Territory ‘Bob Plasto Award’ in 2011. In 2013 Alex undertook a Churchill Fellowship looking at models for social change documentary impact and engagement in UK, Canada and USA. She has since been teaching Impact Producing for film schools and agencies including VCA, OzDox, DYHD? and the Australian Director’s Guild.  

Images of her work are available for publication.  

What: 2970° The Boiling Point When: 26 to 28 June 2015

Information: Where: Bond University and The Arts Centre Gold Coast