A fantastic apology from David Walsh for a controversial installation in his museum. It shines a light on the delicate process of negotiating with artists, the museum’s accountability to its audience, and how you can stumble when they conflict. It’s refreshingly direct. Museum executives, go read this!
Last week Mona opened Southdale/C’Mona, an exhibition that explores, among other things, the unintended consequences of created utopias. The colonisation/invasion of Tasmania by Europeans, and the debilities that resulted for its inhabitants, are among the areas explored. Another was the potential establishment of a Jewish nation in southwest Tasmania. That project, however, didn’t come to such a fraught conclusion, since it disappeared, as did its major proponent.
The artist who devised the exhibition is Christoph Buchel. Because the project was presented as an intervention he wasn’t named at its inception. He, and we, thought that the impact would be enhanced if the project was taken at face value. Since his identity was exposed by the Australian newspaper at the weekend (and they obtained their information from his dealer’s website, and not from us), I don’t feel that, at this point, we are breaking any confidences by revealing the artist’s identity. However…
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I can add a bit of local context to this: one of the artist’s unsanctioned acts was apparently to circulate a whole bunch of these flyers around Hobart http://www.crikey.com.au/2014/06/23/tips-and-rumours-1148/ (the article doesn’t say directly that it was Buchel although it later emerged that this flyer is a copy of a poster on display in the MONA installation).
Although I think news that the flyer was fake got out early enough, pictures of it did start to get circulated online by people who thought it was a real flyer produced by Australia’s governing party. I suppose you could call it a reverse “dog whistle” – it played to the prejudices / fears of those who do believe Australia’s government is racist, or at the very least using race as a wedge issue. It’s does make you wonder where controversial art stops and political mischief-making begins.
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