In the world of modern electronic music and sound art, Ultra-red distinguish themselves for their intrepid blend of political commitment and innovative sound. Rejecting both self-satisfied formalism and convenient political posturing, Ultra-red have for over ten years pursued a precarious but dynamic exchange between art and political organizing. Collectively, the Los Angeles-based group has produced radio broadcasts, performances, recordings, installations and pubic space occupations (ps/o).
Working within a variety of urban ambiences, Ultra-red have investigated the spaces of needle exchange (Soundtrax, 1992 - 1996), public sex (Second Nature, 1995 - 1998), public housing (Structural Adjustments, 1997 - Present), resistance to global capital (Value System, 1998 - Present), labor (Social Factory, 1997 - 2002) and education (School of Echoes, 2001 - Present). Throughout each of these efforts, Ultra-red have pursued two aesthetic-political objectives: to explore acoustic space as enunciative of social relations and, secondly, to radicalize the conventions of electro-acoustic art.
Founded in 1994 by two AIDS activists, Ultra-red have expanded over the years to include activists and organizers from a variety of social movements both in Los Angeles and abroad. In 2004, on their tenth anniversary, the four members of the group launched a restructuring of Ultra-red into an aesthetic-political organization. The newly reorganized Ultra-red permits a greater diversity of projects and campaigns on a local and international level, with multiple groups and alliances taking up the Ultra-red moniker.
Ultra-red has established partnerships with community-based organizations like the Union de Vecinos in East Los Angeles and, internationally, with Ballymun Women's Resource Centre in Dublin, Ireland and the Germany-based migration and anti-racist network Kanak Attak. In addition to these groups, a number of artists have entered into tactical and provisional alliances with Ultra-red for purposes of specific and on-going cooperation. Some of these artists include Eddie Peel (of Sony Mao and Needle), Elliot Perkins (fka Phonem), Terre Thaemlitz, and others. To offer an outlet for the release of projects to come out of these alliances, in 2004 Ultra-red launched Public Record, a fair-use on-line archive for audio, text, image and video documents.
Since the late 1990s, Ultra-red have featured the following four artist-activists: Elizabeth Blaney (artist, organizer, Union de Vecinos), Pablo Garcia (musician, organizer, Valley Family Technology Project), Dont Rhine (artist, AIDS activist), and Leonardo Vilchis (artist, organizer, Union de Vecinos).
Public Space Occupations
Public Record is the internet-based archive of the Ultra-red organization established for the distribution of work by Ultra-red members and allies. The Public Record archive serves as an interface between the organization and its publics. Born in 2004, Ultra-red's tenth year, Public Record expands on the group's mission statement: first, to facilitate cooperation between artists and social movements; second, to occupy the borders between art and organizing; and, third, to radicalize the conventions of electronic music and sound art.
Since the summer of 2003, Transit Migration has investigated the current profile of migration in the former Yugoslavia. The cultural portion of Transit Migration's Yugoslavia project features the audio activist group Ultra-red. Combining field research and cultural praxis, the members of the project team have focused on the various communities that come together in a particular shopping market in Novi Beograd's "Blok 70".
"Time for the Dead to have a Word with the Living: The AIDS Uncanny" / The Journal of Aesthetics & Protest: Issue 4
"Art and the Politics of Public Housing" / Planners Network