Artists pull out of the 18th Sydney Biennale

“………The five Australian and international artists – Libia Castro, Ólafur Ólafsson, Charlie Sofo, Gabrielle de Vietri and Ahmet Ögüt – said in a statement they were withdrawing from the Biennale “in light of Transfield’s expanding management of Manus Island and Nauru immigration detention centres” and in response to the death of Mr Berati.

“We have revoked our works, cancelled our public events and relinquished our artists’ fees,” the statement said.

“We see our participation in the Biennale as an active link in a chain of associations that leads to the abuse of human rights. For us, this is undeniable and indefensible.”

A larger group of artists wrote to the Biennale board last week, demanding it sever ties with Transfield Holdings.

The five boycotting artists claim the board and Transfield indicated “there will be no movement on their involvement in this issue … that the issue is too complex, and that the financial agreements are too important to re-negotiate”.

The artists asked the Biennale of Sydney to acknowledge the protest by registering their withdrawal on its website and displaying signs at the site of the four absent projects. Two of the artists had submitted a joint work.

“In the pervasive silence that the government enforces around this issue, we will not let this action be unnoticed,” the artists said……..”.

Extract courtesy SMH

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The Ethics of Cultural borrowing

An interesting article appeared in the Australian, tabling some of the hot water artists have found themselves in over the appropriation or re-representation of indigenous iconography.


image courtesy of ‘The Australian’

“Imants Tillers expected no controversy when he showed his painting The Nine Shots at the Sydney Biennale in 1986.

The artist had built his entire practice on breathing new life into motifs or compositions by other artists without any trouble. So when some complained that his painting had appropriated imagery from Aboriginal artist Michael Jagamara Nelson’s painting Five Dreamings’, he was surprised to realise he had committed a kind of artistic blasphemy

“I didn’t think I had done anything wrong but other people did,” he says. “Referencing indigenous art was only a minor part of my practice at the time.”

Tillers came under fire for not seeking permission from Nelson to use the imagery. Aboriginal artist Gordon Bennett hit back on behalf of Nelson in 1990, creating a work called The Nine Ricochets that re appropriated Tiller’s imagery. Then, in 2001, an unlikely friendship emerged when Tillers and Nelson started painting together at the suggestion of Brisbane gallery director Michael Eather. “I feel grateful for having had the personal contact,” Tillers says now. “There is still a huge cultural gulf between a Warlpiri artist and a Western artist, but painting is a way of connecting.”  @ The Australian

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