Factory 49, Marrickville 2014

One way or another, through the course of history, a lot of art has been political. For my part, I tend to think of the political as categorically different from the aesthetic, which apart from saving me from getting into arguments means I can set politics aside. I understand that staying out of politics is itself political, but politics is always embedded in the social moment – statues are inevitably toppled, icons clasted. Surely art has a wider remit.

This thinking is challenged, though, when people identify things in your work that are political that you never intended to be. It’s not to say they are wrong but, for all we might try to make pure non-representational art, it is almost impossible to consider every association, everything symbolic or evocative in the material. Any artist who has tried to create a shift in meaning will understand how difficult it is to get people to see past their expectations.

Viewed objectively though, the practical consequence of this phenomenon is that, as an artist, you can really leave the reception of your work to history. For all that you try to make a point, it is on others whether or not they are poked in the eye with it. This means that you are free to make whatever point you like, or none at all.

So, when the opening night of this show happened to land on the First of May, I wondered what it might mean to fill the space entirely with the symbolically neutral colour – red.

I was planning to cover the walls with magenta lycra and red velvet, when our federal government at the time took the bizarre initiative of establishing a whole new level of bureaucracy to reduce the amount of bureaucracy in the bureaucracy. ‘Deregulation Units’ were being set up within government departments and a six-monthly ‘Red Tape Repeal Day’ was legislated, which meant that two whole sitting days of parliament were given over to publicising their achievements. The libertarian in me would have been thrilled, but for the sheer idiocy of it.

So, I found my inner lefty, came up with that incredibly clever flag image, and launched a campaign to bring public awareness to the plight of our much-maligned red tapes. With people desperate to get rid of the stuff before suffering the indignity of exposure as red-tape sympathisers, I was inundated with red tape of all kinds, which saved me a lot of money on materials.

Factory 49 exhibition page

Exhibition handout

Thanks to everyone who contributed red tape and generally got into the spirit of the show.

Extra thanks and big hugs to Bella for all her help setting up the exhibition.

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