Activist art has come to signify a particular emphasis on appropriated aesthetic forms whose political content does the work of both cultural analysis and cultural action. The art collaboration Ultra-red propose a political-aesthetic project that reverses this model. If we understand organizing as the formal practices that build relationships out of which people compose an analysis and strategic actions, how might art contribute to and challenge those very processes? How might those processes already constitute aesthetic forms?
In the worlds of sound art and modern electronic music, Ultra-red pursue a fragile but dynamic exchange between art and political organizing. Founded in 1994 by two AIDS activists, Ultra-red have over the years expanded to include artists, researchers and organisers from different social movements including the struggles of migration, anti-racism, participatory community development, and the politics of HIV/AIDS.
Collectively, the group have produced radio broadcasts, performances, recordings, installations, texts and public space actions (ps/o). Exploring acoustic space as enunciative of social relations, Ultra-red take up the acoustic mapping of contested spaces and histories utilising sound-based research (termed Militant Sound Investigations) that directly engage the organizing and analyses of political struggles.
Ultra-red's ten associates in North America and Europe work within a variety of ambiences conducting Militant Sound Investigations of the spaces of needle exchange (Soundtrax, 1992 - 1996), public sex (Second Nature, 1995 - 1998), public housing (Structural Adjustments, 1997 - 2003), resistance to global capital (Value System, 1998 - 2003), labor (Social Factory, 1997 - 2002), education (School of Echoes, 2001 - Present), anti-racism and migration struggles (Surveying The Future, 2001 - Present), and HIV/AIDS (SILENT|LISTEN, 2005 - Present). The group also runs the fair-use online record label, Public Record..