arts

Controversial Indigenous blood artwork pulled from festival

Published 23rd March 2021
Dark Mofo is run by the Museum of Old and New Art (Mona), pictured here.
Credit: Shutterstock
Controversial Indigenous blood artwork pulled from festival
Written by Jack Guy, CNN
The Dark Mofo art festival in Tasmania, Australia, has canceled a project that asked for blood donations from Indigenous people, following a backlash.
Spanish artist Santiago Sierra had planned to immerse the British Union Jack flag "in the blood of its colonised territories," according to the call for donations earlier this month.
"We made a mistake, and take full responsibility. The project will be cancelled," reads a post on the Dark Mofo Facebook page Tuesday, signed by creative director Leigh Carmichael.
"We apologise to all First Nations people for any hurt that has been caused. We are sorry."
CNN has contacted Sierra for comment.
The project was "open to First Nations peoples from countries claimed by the British Empire at some point in history, who reside in Australia," according to a call for donations posted on Facebook March 19.
Artist Santiago Sierra is no stranger to controversy over his works.
Artist Santiago Sierra is no stranger to controversy over his works. Credit: Ballesteros/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
Those who volunteered to take part were asked to donate a "small amount of blood" to the artwork.
The project was quickly criticized on multiple platforms.
Kira Puru, an Australian musician who is of Māori descent, commented on Dark Mofo's initial Instagram post: "What a way to reveal that there are no First Nations folks in your curatorial/consulting teams," adding: "White people further capitalising on the literal blood of First Nations people."
Writer Cass Lynch, a descendant of the Noongar people, who lives in western Australia, wrote a piece in Overland, an Australian radical literary magazine, which said it was "disrespectful and ignorant" to ask for blood donations.
The Noongar are Aboriginal Australian people that live in southwestern Australia.
"To ask First Nations people to give blood to drench a flag recreates, not critiques, the abhorrent conditions of colonisation," wrote Lynch.
"It asks a community upon whose blood this Australian colony has been built, a community who die younger, sicker and more marginalised due to structural racism than anyone else, for yet more blood to make a statement that makes no reference to giving back or righting wrongs."
Lynch emphasized that donors were not offered payment, nor did Dark Mofo mention donations to Indigenous organizations.
CNN has contacted Lynch for further comment.
Despite the criticism, Dark Mofo originally defended the project in a Facebook post Monday.
"Self-expression is a fundamental human right, and we support artists to make and present work regardless of their nationality or cultural background," reads the post.
However, the next day the festival announced the cancellation of the project. The rest of the festival will take place as planned from 16-22 June in Hobart, Tasmania.
Sierra is known for works that scandalize audiences, including the transformation of a former synagogue in Germany into a gas chamber and paying four ​women he described as "prostitutes" addicted to heroin ​to have their backs ​tattooed in a single horizontal line.