RIOT! Artist Interviews #1: Ruby Ellam & Danielle Divola

RIOT! is Connection Arts Space’s current digital group exhibition being delivered daily via Instagram.  The exhibition carves out a space for our artists and the audience to explore various themes such as philosophy, social issues, politics, spirituality and religion, while seeking to elevate voices that are typically pushed to the margins. We asked participating artists one simple but complex question:

WHY DO YOU RIOT?

Ruby Ellam

@ruby.ellam

“Playboy Self Portrait” (2020)
Acrylic on canvas, 20 x 24 inches

When I began my journey into social awareness and activism, my attitude was always very confrontational, I was all about proving that my voice is worthy.  I was more concerned with smashing things and tearing apart institutions that actively hurt me. My feminism wasn’t very intersectional, being an uneducated teenager, and I’ve had to unlearn a lot of my attitudes towards allyship. Now I’m much more interested in listening, I have less of a responsibility to shout and scream and more of a responsibility to support community leadership in all intersectionalities. 

There’s plenty of conversations that I can take control of – womxn in the arts, womxn with reproductive disabilities, growing up in poverty, growing up in a very different place to Melbourne.  But there are more things and people that I need to shut up and listen to.  I want to nurture my community and as an art historian, I try to maintain an intersectional methodology of art history and art-making. I riot by actively observing and listening.  I donate money to Pay the Rent, I share resources online, I have hard conversations with my family. They’re little everyday things I can do.

Danielle Divola


@giorgiovasari2k

“Absolutely Cooked” – An observation of the genuinely cooked state of things in the world at the moment. A complex and layered lasagna of systems of inequality, if you will.

I riot because I believe it’s vital for artists to be fully involved in the world around them. Our world is so big and seems so impenetrable and chaotic, but you can be a part of so much change and momentum in the smallest of spaces, and eventually through those small spaces you can reach further out into communities and create meaningful connections with others. Riot to me is more than making yourself heard, it’s the connection forged with others through making yourself heard that is necessary to bring about real change. Connection and understanding are the first steps towards change.

I chose to participate in RIOT! because it spoke to the connections I am always seeking in my work, whether that is connection in understanding myself and my experiences, the culture and events around me, my friends and family, or the history behind me. At this time when isolation has become a primary part of our lives, connection is extremely vital. Art is the great facilitator of connection, and has been a lifeline to everyone in isolation; whenever you’re watching television or film or listening to music, you are bound to art.

These times also feel brutally fragile, in that this forced global pause has shown that the most urgent issues cannot be put on hold. Racism, state violence, policing, authoritarianism and climate crises have continued throughout the world with many forced to witness. Collectively we are confronting the crossroads we have been approaching for a long time. Riot and connection are not only important to sustain us for the moment, they are tools to help us shape a new future.

My artwork, 2O2C (a week is a month is a day or a year, idk), explores this cultural landscape marked by economic failure, colonialism, climate disaster and loneliness in memes. Memes have been another artistic lifeline for young people this year, who will suffer the worst from these global problems now and into the future. As a young person, I have felt a lot of sadness, rage, numbness and helplessness about what my future could look like, but I have tried to focus on how I can channel those feelings for the benefit of myself and others, and making memes was one solution. I want other young people to see this artwork and know that making memes is a valid art practice, to be seen, shared and appreciated. I want young people to see the power they have in creating a community around memes. I want young people to feel empowered to reach out to that community and beyond to let themselves be heard. I want young people to riot.

The RIOT! exhibition continues until Friday 16 October via Connection Arts Space’s Instagram. You can also keep up with the exhibition via Facebook.

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