Review: Cause and Effect 2017 – Artists for Social Change


Redfern, hosted the latest incarnation of the annual Carnival of the Bold: Cause and Effect, an arts for social change exhibition from the 24​th​ May to 4​th​ June.  Presented as part of Vivid Ideas 2017, the exhibition also included an artist showcase and a forum. The underlying themes of environmental impact and vulnerability, war and conflict, and racism were showcased to brilliant effect in this intimate space, utilising the complex synergies of cause and effect.  It is a refreshing change to be able to view the exhibits and form individual opinion, and later listen to the artists account of their own art and motivational factors.

how wonderful it is to live in a world that does not need protection

The first eye-catching exhibit is Mandy Schone-Salter’s giant hand holding a tiny possum.  Human hands can wreak massive destruction through sheer size and power, and yet conversely, we can use those same hands to protect childlike, trusting, vulnerable others.  Mandy challenges us to ask ourselves what is priceless, and believes that it is vital to provide a voice to the voiceless. Something that was missing during her years of growing up in East Germany’s Stasiland.  Her work tends to highlight the innocent and playful nature of subjects, while reminding us that freedom and rights of all beings on earth especially children and animals, are important.

Mandy Schone-Salter’s ‘giant’ hand holding a tiny possum
Mandy Schone-Salter’s ‘giant’ hand holding a tiny possum. Image credit: Carnival of the Bold

art is not just decoration or a possession

Exploring the similar theme of effects of environmental destruction was Sherine Tan’s interactive installation of a small origami polar bear on a large ice-block, set against a running video backdrop.  The melting ice-block over the course of the two-week exhibition dramatically mimics the environmental reality of gradually shrinking polar icecaps, while the black and white video depicts the disturbing effects of growing industrialisation, wars, pollution, natural disasters.  Sherine is deeply concerned about the impact of unsustainable development and excessive human consumption, and uses her art to convey the urgency for these issues to be addressed before it is too late.

stand up and be counted

Tia Kass, a grassroots activist, who believes in the power of collective action, focuses on class struggles against oppressive and unjust systems. He creates a striking portraiture of three actual participants he witnessed during the mass uprising in Greece against the onerous burdens of the post-2008 economic crisis austerity measures. A young woman stares compellingly at you from the wall, seemingly drawing strength and confidence from the mosaic of ‘potato’ figures behind her. Tia’s exhibit is based on actual photographs taken onsite – an artist who is unusually and concurrently, both spectator and participant.

Artwork by Tia Kass. Image credit: Carnival of the Bold
Artwork by Tia Kass. Image credit: Carnival of the Bold

we are not what we are but what we do

The brutality and heavy losses that war wreaks on both the dead and the survivors, and the core message that war is a creator of problems, never a solution – is what Marwa Charmand depicts through the medium of charcoal etchings and block prints on woodcuts. Her exhibits takes inspiration from and ‘updates’ the work of Kathe Kolliwitz. The use of 92 woodblock prints reinterpreting Kathe’s Infant Mortality from 1925, to symbolise the intervening 92 years between the original and the revised, is a sharp reminder that nothing has changed: war continues to dehumanise people, and cause unspeakable losses for parents and communities everywhere.

art is a powerful instigator for change

Striking colours, powerful imagery and symbolism dominate Miriam Cabello’s oil paintings, which are influenced by civil rights and the #BlackLivesMatter movement. Her work canvasses the power struggles and injustice found in the narratives of racial stereotypes, and politics of segregation experienced by disadvantaged minorities everywhere. The fourteen stations of cross are reinterpreted into contemporary settings of the ‘stages’ of boxing.  David and Goliath style images are depicted, with each defiant David representing real-life Aboriginal men and youth who have died in custody.  Miriam explained the choice of colours used, such as blue to symbolise wealth and plundering of a country’s wealth.  The yellow double line shown in a painting highlights hard lines that need to be crossed, and changes that need to be effected.

everyone is an artist

Racial stereotypes and identity politics dominate Andrea Srisurapon’s thought-provoking exhibit – based on video and photographs.  She believes in broader definitions of art, where everyone is an artist.  The push-pull factor in cultural identity is expressed in the collaging of yellow face paint representing Andrea’s Thai heritage, and Australian symbols such as the flag and green-gold colours representing her white Australian background.  Her work is not confronting, yet manages to get its message across loudly and succinctly.  She speaks of a visual mismatch where what she sees in the mirror does not mimic the reality of her complex integrated identity and experiences, as conveyed in the video of her reading out Pauline Hanson’s 1997 maiden speech to parliament in English while her Caucasian mother, next to her, is translating into Thai.

for every cause, there is an effect and for every effect, there is a cause.

Change is a strange thing.  For it to be lasting and meaningful, it requires strong impetus, an imperative that originates from within.  Perhaps not all leaving the exhibition may feel compelled to go on to act on the issues highlighted.  Nonetheless, seeds have been planted in fertile minds.  If the resulting uneasiness unsettles enough hearts and minds, then the efforts of six artists have not been in vain.