Artivists play their cards for Muckaty

Story and photo by Shardae Ewart

Where can you meet a queen, a king, a rebellious kangaroo and a maggot-infested horse?

In a tucked-away gallery on Day St, a stone’s throw from the city’s centre, where more than 300 people gathered to support the opening of the exhibit ’The Cardshow.‘

It was a beautiful evening displaying a total of 56 artworks by 58 different artists, all coming together to create awareness and raise money for the action against the proposed nuclear waste dump in Muckaty, Northern Territory.

Most of the artists donated their work to the fundraising efforts. During the opening 43 artworks were sold in a silent auction.

Maia Sinclair-Ferguson organised the event with her partner Tessa Dowdell and fellow environmentalist Hannah Walters. Hannah and Tessa worked at 2SER at the Third Degree, a morning radio program on climate justice issues. In 2007 Tessa went to the Northern Territory for the convergence, a protest against the Northern Territory Emergency Response (the NT intervention). “She was following the story, and she came back and was like ‘I want to do this’ and I was like ‘yes’ so it was essentially her push,” says Maia.

As a part of the exhibition the three also printed and packaged 2000 decks of cards, which are being sold for $20 each.

“I guess the whole idea [for the cards] came about from a deck of cards that my dad owned, which was curated by a guy called Alan Driscoll from the UK. He produced a deck of playing cards in 1979, commissioning 56 contemporary British artists.

“The difference here, is that we haven’t commissioned anyone, we’ve gotten the majority of the artists to donate their works, and say ‘yes you may reproduce this picture and use it in your promo material’, which is incredibly generous, and awesome.”

Since 2007 under the ‘Commonwealth Radioactive Waste Management Act’ of the Howard Government, and now under the ‘National Radioactive Waste Bill’ of the current government, the people of the Northern Territory have been opposing plans to store nuclear waste in Muckaty.

The traditional owners of the land have asked the Resource Minister Martin Ferguson to come and speak with them, but he refuses.

In March 2012 the traditional land owners launched a court case against the Federal Government and the Northern Land Council to fight an agreement that was made for the site without their consent. It is an ongoing battle supported by organisations such as Beyond Nuclear Initiative and Friends Of the Earth.

On the opening night of ‘The Cardshow’ there was an information desk set up about Muckaty and the Nuclear Freeways Campaign. It was manned by members of the Yellow Cake Road Collective whose mission is to raise awareness of the issues that arise from the transport of nuclear waste.

Maia’s concern is not only for the people of Muckaty, but also to raise awareness amongst the broader community of Australians.

“The waste would be driven from Lucas Heights in southern Sydney all the way across Australia, and up through the Northern Territory. That in itself is so problematic; it opens a whole possibility for so many nuclear waste accidents happening across such a huge distance,” she says.

The sheer scale of such a large group of people coming together to produce a single work creates a remarkable sense of unity around the project.

“It [the show] was a vessel in which you can have 58 artists creating 56 fragments that are essentially a whole, this whole idea of collective ‘Artivism’. Artists showing that they can put their efforts into something that can actually have an effect that is positive, instead of speaking into a vacuum.”

Through the silent auction and the continued sale of the decks of cards the women hope to raise about $20,000.

“It’s going to go through Beyond Nuclear Initiative, directly to the people involved with court costs, transport costs, for traditional owners speaking, actually connecting with people, and saying ‘this is why we don’t want nuclear waste on our land,” says Maia.

Some of the prominent artists and Sydney street artists involved in the project include: Reg Mombassa, Simon Yates, Jacqueline Olivetti, Hazzy Bee, Susan Norrie, Linda Dement and Akisiew.

Maia didn’t know all of the artists personally. “I got a bunch of those contacts through the gallery owner Steve, which was really cool.”

With so many different artists involved, there is a huge variety of styles and ideas present in this unique and colourful deck of cards.

“A usual transformation deck would keep the pips in the same place, the difference with this is that it’s breaking the format of the transformation deck. You have a lot more freedom, it doesn’t have to be visually representative by drawing the number eight and showing, eight spades or something it can be a lot more free form. There are some ambiguous ones in this deck, as well as the ’79 deck.”

As well as being a great work in itself, ‘The Cardshow’ is an amazing example of creative people coming together to support an idea that’s worth fighting for.

“It feels great to create something and hopefully have it directly impact the people of Muckaty,” says artist Amber Rosado, who submitted the Ten of Spades. “I wouldn’t want nuclear waste in my back yard, and I don’t think it’s fair that they should have to have it either.”


Unsold artworks and cards can be bought at the Mori Gallery and online at http://www.etsy.com/shop/cardshow2012

Featured image: The cardshow: 2,000 packs of cards and original artworks by 58 local artists.

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