Editorial: Resistance and/as Creative Practice


by Kim Munro and Melody Ellis

View Melody Ellis' Biography

Melody Ellis is a writer and researcher interested in a poetics of togetherness and collective arts practices, power, resistance, and the politics of value; she is a lecturer in creative writing at RMIT University where she is a member of the non/fictionLab research group.

View Kim Munro's Biography

Kim Munro is a filmmaker, art-maker, educator based in Melbourne.

Editorial: Resistance and/as Creative Practice

Kim Munro and Melody Ellis


1 - Editorial_resistance.jpeg

Photo credit: Kim Munro - no title, 2018


Artists and creative practitioners have often been at the forefront of resisting oppressive forces, speaking out against injustice not only with words, but through all available creative tools at their disposal. We want to begin by acknowledging the serious and sustained work to which many practitioners across the globe are dedicated. Creative responses as acts of resistance have a long history. We might think of ACT UP and AIDS activists, Extinction Rebellion, and the Land Back movement as just some examples of social justice movements. Or of the death of Mahsa Amini who died in police custody in 2022 after being detained by Iran's morality police for not wearing her hijab in accordance with government standards. As many people across the world came together in solidarity for the ongoing struggle of Iranian women, they did so not only with marches and speeches, but also by creating installations, performances, films, poetry, and other forms of art – acts of solidarity and resistance.

As we write this editorial, the Russian invasion of Ukraine enters its third devastating year and the genocidal violence taking place in Gaza and the West Bank has seen over 30,000 Palestinians killed and at least 1.9 million displaced (Al Jazeera, 2024; UN, 2024). The World Food Programme has warned that "famine is imminent in the northern part of the Gaza strip and the entire population of Gaza is facing crisis levels of food insecurity or worse" (WFP 2024, nd). In the context of this sobering reality, we might well wonder what forms of resistance we can take that will make a difference. We might experience utter hopelessness on the one hand, even as on the other we are committed to resisting in whatever ways remain possible and available to us. Such acts of resistance often come with an inherent risk of backlash or infraction that we know is disproportionately experienced by already marginalised people/s. Increasingly arts organisations, universities and media outlets are censoring people with dissenting political positions. Since the war in Gaza, there has been a concerning rise in the censorship of artists who speak up in solidarity with Palestinians. People's livelihoods are being threatened and their work and voices censored as literary and arts events are cancelled, musicians are dropped from festivals, filmmakers are sidelined, academics and journalists are fired from their jobs, and curators are dismissed from their roles at the last minute. In addition there has been a rise in antisemitism that conflates the actions of Israel's most extremist and right wing Government, and Jewish people.

We stand with all of those calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.


As co-editors of this issue of Unlikely, we were interested in exploring the relationship between practice and resistance. To consider creative practices as resistance. The issue came out of our mutual interest in the relationship between the two. As a project, it marks the end of nearly four-years of planning and conversations held mostly online through lockdowns and across time zones. Our initial plans were put on hold due to the pandemic, interstate moves and job changes. We have attempted to make space for the slowness of this project and to see it as its own small form of resistance against the cultural and institutional imperatives for immediacy. In For Now, Eileen Myles says about writing – and which we think can be said of all creative labour – "It really takes so much time to become a writer and you have to be able to roll in time itself ... like a dog likes to roll in dead fish at the beach" (2020, 6). We appreciate the certain 'funk' this metaphor evokes since the time put into a creative practice is not always neat or 'clean' time. It tends to be far less linear than is generally appreciated, and is furthermore inherently implicated in the rough and tumble of our lives.

Putting together this issue also involved the curation of three public events, all run in 2023. The first of these was a live event held in September, that took place in a community centre in the Edinburgh Gardens in inner Naarm1/Melbourne. The choice to hold the event not in a university setting or an established art space was a considered one, and one that allowed the event to be less governed by the tacit structures of public institutions. Spanning an 8-hour day (recalling the labour movement), the program began with 'Public Reading as Resistance' (Marnie Badham and Kelly Hussey-Smith) on the lawn outside the community centre. Designed to 'restore the value of reading into everyday working life', participants brought their own books or were encouraged to select from those provided. Small signs on the grass demarcated the space. The day continued with Paea Leach's performance of Alice Cummins's score 'Navigating Eternity', which Alice first performed for the Festival of Death and Dying at Dancehouse in 2017. In the early afternoon, a long table was set for Alisa Tanaka-King's 'Dumpling Darlings' – a dumpling making workshop accompanied by guided conversations on the radical act of kindness that is sharing food. The event was brought to a close by Queer Screen Production Practices in Australia's (Angie Black, Patrick Kelly, Kim Munro and Stayci Taylor) 'Between the Cracks' which used the Edinburgh Gardens as an emergent site for a live screen performance about resistance.

As a way to decentralise the exhibition component that is part of each Unlikely issue, a screening night was held in Tarndanya2/Adelaide where contributor Jill Daniels' If not now (2023) was shown alongside John Gianvito's Her Socialist Smile (2020) – a formally inventive portrait of the activism of Helen Keller; and in Naarm/Melbourne, the Jolly Good Fellows (Peta Murray and Stayci Taylor) held a 'Maverick Methods' workshop. Alongside this, Kim Munro also staged her developmental hybrid documentary theatre project based at and about the feminist experimental theatre and performance company, Vitalstistitix.


Michel Foucault writes, "Where there is power, there is resistance" (1990, 95). Here, Foucault defines power not as located in any particular structure or institution, but rather that it can be found anywhere. As power is always contingent and relational, so too is resistance. To resist—from its most modest quotidian expression to large-scale community action—is to act against something, be it injustice, the status quo, and/or entrenched power. To resist is to stand one's ground and refuse to act as one is told one must. To resist is also to be unruly, to break the rules, to experiment and to push the boundaries.

To consider the term resistance is always already to engage with broader questions of power, disobedience, rebellion, refusal, and objection. Indeed, Stephen Muecke's hypothesis on resistance is that "the most effective forms of resistance are not resistance at all, but are better described by other words" (2020, nd). To engage with resistance is to be reminded of long (sometimes forgotten, sometimes ignored) histories of activism for civil, sexual, and environmental rights across the world. To consider resistance on stolen unceded Boon wurrung and Kaurna Country, in our case, is to be attentive to the ongoing legacies of colonisation and exploitation in Australia. As non-Indigenous Australians we were born in a settler-colonial country, which largely disavows its colonial history positioning itself as a place where everyone gets a 'fair go'. While there are increasing numbers of non-Indigenous Australians grappling with what it means to live as a settler (indeed to be born as a settler) on unceded stolen lands, there is still much work to be done both individually and collectively to confront the legacies of a nation built on land theft, exploitation and assimilation.

As creative practitioners, there are various ways we might seek to resist and indeed come up against resistance in our work, many of which counter easy definitions. Muecke names deflection, interruption, creation, destruction and disappearance as just some ways of enacting resistance (2020). Resistance is such a capacious term. In addition to its political and activist associations it can refer to a certain refusal or inability to change or be changed. We can see this in the term 'antibiotic resistant' or in psychological terms it can signal a refusal to engage a different perspective.

Gayatri Spivak insists that for her "the State is both poison and medicine" (2018). It is clear that in saying this she does not mean that the state is the solution to its own ills, but rather that it can manifest as either and both. Those of us committed to political and artistic resistance are often confronted with the double binds of navigating life under late (colonial, extractive) capitalism such that we are often the beneficiaries of the very systems we critique and seek to undo. Including, in our case, from the increasingly corporatised universities where we teach, make work, and engage in research. Even as we are not a fan of the 'we are all responsible' blanket-approach that adds to the neoliberal tendency to place the burden of responsibility always on the individual, there nevertheless remains the need for a commitment to individual responsibility as part of systemic change. Angela Davis and other abolition feminists argue clearly that while prison abolition – rather than prison reform – must be the goal, this does not mean that we wouldn't want to see better conditions in prisons in the short term. But we wouldn't want the project of change to be hijacked by the rhetoric of betterment, which so often serves the system that would rather 'reform' than transform. We see this in universities too where diversity and inclusion committees are tasked with establishing better practices that very often lead to little if no material change, even as the committees are used as evidence of action, as Sara Ahmed (2018) and others continue to remind us. In other words, we want social change to go beyond the limited confines of an already oppressive system. We want to insist on and strive for more than can be imagined as possible. As Angela Davis, Gina Dent, Erica Meiners and Beth Richie argue in Abolition. Feminism. Now., "Abolition requires profound shifts in how we organize against oppression and what we do to create the world we want" (2022, 27).


A number of complimentary themes converged from the global response to our callout for this issue of Unlikely, resulting in a multidisciplinary inquiry into various approaches to enacting and practising resistance.

Several contributions demonstrate a commitment to formal resistance as much as the subject matter. Using the structure of the disjunctive essay film, for example, Jill Daniels interrogates the history of left-wing activism as one that is fractured and fragmented. Here, as Daniels argues in her accompanying written piece, retelling histories can also catalyse present-day activism. Using a website with its inherent rhizome structure, Manuela Covini interrogates how knowledge is instrumentalised (and weaponised), and disseminated – thereby reinforcing power. Teasing apart The Door's 60s fever dream hit Riders of the Storm, Covini follows threads of resistance and counternarratives.

Resistance can also be felt in the body through labour conditions. Matthias Kispert's (or superconductr's) piece takes the gig economy and platform capitalism as sites where resistance has become urgent. Kispert's experiments and interventions draw attention to the exploitation of precarious workers through employing artistic research methods that intervene in the infrastructures as well as the ideological constructs upon which digital labour platforms operate. Making visible what is often unseen through collaborative action builds solidarity across different forms of labour where creative work too is emphasised as a site of embodied work. The idea of doing the (often invisible) work is taken up by Kate Hill, Ender Başkan, Sophie Moorhouse Morris and Isadora Vaughan in their collective project 'We will never clean the creek' about the endlessness of attempting to clean the merri merri (a reference to Merri Creek, one of inner Melbourne's few remaining natural watercourses). Here, labour is an act of eco-devotion.

Collectivity as resistance is foregrounded in artist Andrea Zimmermann's multi-disciplinary practice. Her Alphabetarium of Resistance maps an A-Z of memory, people, place and ecology as it weaves together anecdotes, filmmaking, and issues of class, housing, and production values. Collectivity is also enacted by Marnie Badham and Kelly Hussey-Smith whose ongoing Reading as Resistance project counters the busyness (and indeed business) of the neoliberal university in which academics are perennially overworked and have very little time allocated in their workplans or calendars to the essential practice of reading. Their project fosters a space of solidarity with other readers making the often-private space of reading public.

Practices of solidarity through creating new commons can go some ways towards resisting the grip of social media conglomerates, and thereby the attention economy. In Ben Byrne's contribution, building free and open platforms creates new spaces for sociality and can facilitate attentiveness towards 'another'. Resistance then becomes a matter of intentional design that recuperates the role of the social back into social media. Byrne cites Simone Weil's writings on attention as pivotal to understating how listening online accretes solidarity, especially as it occurs when platforms are created specifically with this in mind. Listening is further expanded as an emancipatory practice in Lílian Campesato and Valéria Bonafé's piece around artistic exchanges between female artists in South America during 2020. Campesato and Bonafé call from a mode of listening that doesn't erase difference, but rather embraces divergence, and the unsaid (or unsayable). Creative collaborations can enable connections to be formed through what they term the 'vital force' of listening – a form of listening that resists dominant hegemonies. Cassandra Atherton and Jessica Wilkinson's Memory Book project also recognises the power of listening, as it centres the stories of older people documented in and through poetry.

Playfulness, joy, and absurdity are other key approaches to resistance in the issue. Melinda Reid, Anastasia Murney, and Aneshka Mora take the provocation 'what if?' seriously when they bring disco into the classroom. While Stayci Taylor and Peta Murray engage resistance through language and neologism, using humour to highlight the absurd corporatisation of academic-speak. David Brazier's contribution highlights the absurdity of the residency brief by passing it on to an employee of an outsourcing company and through other such subversive interventions in which his own artistic labour is replaced or 'outsourced' by non-artist actors.

Reimagining is another strategy of resistance taken up in the issue. Victor Arroyo examines José María Velasco's Pastoral Landscapes as instruments of surveillance and colonial violence, rephotographing them in collaboration with the Indigenous P'urhépecha in Mexico. While Phethile Zitha, Simangaliso Sibiya, Nom'Ay Matola, and Hayley Haynes-Rolando document their creative collaboration with High School students in Dobsonville, Soweto, radically reimagining the school environment for student belonging and empowerment.


Rosi Braidotti asks, "how can we work towards socially sustainable horizons of hope, through creative resistance?" (2019, 156). We wonder if one way might be to keep the question of what we mean by resistance alive in all its complexity and variety. From the smallest gesture to the largest action. To understand the term as never fully knowable such that it doesn't stagnate or become too fixed. We might characterise resistance as that revolutionary impulse that Audre Lorde writes about, "not as a one-time event" but rather as "always vigilant for the smallest opportunity to make a genuine change in established, outgrown responses" (1984, 140-1). Or as what Ahmed calls a "sweaty concept" (2016, 12). We might think of resistance as the point at which our creative and intellectual lives come up most directly against our civil and community lives. Where indeed our bodies are often on the line both literally and figuratively.

It's been a great pleasure working with each of the writers and artists in this issue and we are delighted to be introducing it here. We wish to thank the team behind Unlikely who entrusted us with the issue; each of the writers and artists who have contributed their work; those who performed and participated in the live events; and our peer reviewers without whom none of the pieces in the issue would have made it to publication.


Ahmed, Sara. 2017. Living a Feminist Life. Durham: Duke University Press.

Al Jazeera. 2024. Israel-Gaza war in maps and charts: Live tracker.

Braidotti, Rosi. 2019. Posthuman Knowledge, Cambridge, UK: Polity Press.

Davis, Angela., Dent, Gina., Meiners, Erica., Richie., Beth. 2022. Abolition. Feminism. Now. UK: Penguin Books.

Foucault, Michel. 1978. The History of Sexuality. Volume I, An Introduction. New York: Vintage Books

Lorde, Audre. 1984. Sister Outsider. New York: Crossing Press.

Muecke, Stephen. 2020. Resistance. Overland, 24 Summer.

Myles, Eileen. 2020. For Now. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Spivak, Gaytri, Davis, Angela. 2018. "COLONIAL REPERCUSSIONS - Angela Davis and Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak: Planetary Utopias." Akademie der Künste, Berlin, 23-24 June 2018.

United Nations. 2024. "As Israel's Aerial Bombardments Intensify, 'There Is No Safe Place in Gaza', Humanitarian Affairs Chief Warns Security Council." Meetings Coverage and Press Releases, 12 January 2024.

World Food Programme. 2024. "Famine imminent in northern Gaza, new report warns." News Releases, 18 March 2024.


  1. Naarm (also spelled Narrm or Nairm) is the name given to the place now known as Melbourne in the five language groups of the Kulin nation, the First Peoples of this part of Australia. 

  3. Tarndanya is the name given to the place now known as Adelaide by the Kaurna people, the First Peoples of this part of Australia.