Transfield has been doing it tough over the last year. Continue reading “#ReBrandDetentionCamps Competitive Selection Process | #Transfield #Manus #Nauru”
Maintaining ethical standards in the art world is the responsibility not only of artists, but also cultural institutions and those who support them. Any decision taken by an institution should be made with respect for its public, the people who work for it and the artists who collaborate with it. Continue reading “Ahmet Öğüt, Making Decisions With Heart in Times of Crisis ”
26 February 2014
We are five of the 37 artists – Libia Castro, Ólafur Ólafsson, Charlie Sofo, Gabrielle de Vietri and Ahmet Öğüt – who signed a letter to the Board of the Biennale of Sydney in relation to their founding sponsor, Transfield.
We make this statement in light of Transfield’s expanding management of Manus Island and Nauru immigration detention centres. We act in the wake of the death of Reza Berati from inside Manus Island detention centre on February 17. We are in urgent political circumstances with a government that is stepping up their warfare on the world’s most vulnerable people daily.
We have received indications from the Board of the Biennale and Transfield that there will be no movement on their involvement in this issue. In our letter to the Board we asked for action and engagement, but we are told that the issue is too complex, and that the financial agreements are too important to re-negotiate.
And so we make this statement from a critical juncture of political urgency and artistic autonomy.
This is a statement of our withdrawal from the 19th Biennale of Sydney.
We have revoked our works, cancelled our public events and relinquished our artists’ fees. While we have sought ways to address our strong opposition to Australia’s mandatory detention policy as participants of the Biennale, we have decided that withdrawal is our most constructive choice. We do not accept the platform that Transfield provides via the Biennale for critique. 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.
Our withdrawal is one action in a multiplicity of others, already enacted and soon to be carried out in and around the Biennale. We do not propose to know the exact ethical, strategic or effective action to end mandatory detention, but we act on conscience and we act with hope.
We have chosen to redirect our energies into multiple forms of action: discussions, workshops, publications, exhibitions and works that will continue to fuel this debate in the public sphere. In this, we stand with our local and international communities that are calling for the closure of Australia’s offshore detention facilities. We ask for their active support in keeping this issue at the forefront of our minds, in the warmest part of our hearts, in the most urgent of discussions and in the most bold of actions, until the detention centres on Manus Island and Nauru close.
We withdraw to send a message to the Biennale urging them, again, to act ethically and transparently. To send a message to Transfield that we will not add value to their brand and its inhumane enterprise. Finally, and most importantly, we withdraw to send a message to the Australian Government that we do not accept their unethical policy against asylum seekers.
We ask that the Biennale of Sydney acknowledge the absence of our work from the exhibition. As the Biennale has offered to provide a platform and support for our dissent, we request that our withdrawal be registered on the Biennale website and signposted at the physical site of our projects. In the pervasive silence that the Government enforces around this issue, we will not let this action be unnoticed.
We act in solidarity with all those who are working towards a better future for asylum seekers. We hope that others will join us.
Gabrielle de Vietri
To the organisers of the 19th Biennale of Sydney,
We are workers and educators in the arts sector.
We were concerned to hear that a major sponsor of the Biennale, Transfield, is currently contracted to assist with the running of Regional Processing Centres (RPCs) on Nauru and Manus Island. These RPCs are part of the infrastructure of the Australian Government’s policy of mandatory detention, a policy that has been condemned by organisations such as the UNHCR for human rights abuses and breaches of international law. The Nauru and Manus Island RPCs in particular have come under criticism for the harsh and inhumane conditions in which people seeking asylum have been kept.
We note in this respect that RISE: Refugees, Survivors and Ex-Detainees – Australia’s only organisation run and governed by refugees, asylum seekers and ex-detainees – support a complete boycott of the Biennale.
We feel that it would be irresponsible on our part to support an event funded with profits made from the inhumane detention of people seeking asylum in Australia.
For this reason we wish to inform you that we have decided to boycott the 19th Biennale of Sydney.
Dr Lorraine Bower
Dr Matthew Holt
Dr Suzanne Osmond
Please let us know in a comment below if you would like to add your name to this letter.
We write this open letter to join in the call for a boycott of the 19th Biennale of Sydney. We encourage artists and audiences to stand up for what is right and help disrupt a supply chain that profits from human misery. Continue reading “Joostice backs boycott of Sydney Biennale”
[UPDATE: please note that links to this article were previously being blocked and deleted from Facebook. This now appears to have been fixed.]
On Monday night, 17 February, a meeting was held at the College of Fine Arts in Sydney to discuss Transfield’s involvement in the 19th Biennale of Sydney. Despite the intensity and diversity of opinions at play it seems fair to say that a productive discussion was had. Credit for this must go to the organiser Zanny Begg, facilitator Wenny, and all those who participated. Continue reading “The Biennale boycott and diversity of tactics”
As discussions about the sponsorship of the Sydney Biennale quickly turned to calls for a boycott, as various articles appeared in arts media on the boycott and elsewhere on Transfield, as open letters were sent by participants in the Biennale to its Board requesting they sever their ties to Transfield and, not least, as these discussions were taking place against the backdrop of terrible events—including one death—at the Australian Government’s detention centre on Manus Island, the question that kept emerging in various ways throughout these conversations has been that of risk
Art critic, Ruth Skilbeck explains her reasons for boycotting the 19th Sydney Biennale.
You imagine what you desire. The semantic ambiguity of the Biennale title shows the waffle of postmodernist rhetorical relativity, as the cover-up for neo-liberalism (and fascist) policy that it enables, and the cynicism behind it.
[Amended to include a further six signatories, Feb 20th]
To the Board of Directors of the Biennale of Sydney,
We are a group of artists Gabrielle de Vietri, Bianca Hester, Charlie Sofo, Nathan Gray, Deborah Kelly, Matt Hinkley, Benjamin Armstrong, Libia Castro, Ólafur Ólafsson, Sasha Huber, Sonia Leber, David Chesworth, Daniel McKewen, Angelica Mesiti, Ahmet Öğüt, Meriç Algün Ringborg, Joseph Griffiths, Sol Archer, Tamas Kaszas, Krisztina Erdei, Nathan Coley, Corin Sworn, Ross Manning, Martin Boyce, Callum Morton, Emily Roysdon, Søren Thilo Funder, Mikhail Karikis, Sara van der Heide, Henna-Riikka Halonen, Ane Hjort Guttu, Hadley+Maxwell, Shannon Te Ao, Yael Bartana, all participants in the 19th Biennale of Sydney.