Wednesday 19 February 2014
Artists respond to call for Biennale boycott
Artists invited to exhibit in the 19th Biennale of Sydney have issued an open letter (attached) to the Board of Directors of the Biennale of Sydney requesting they withdraw from their funding arrangements with Transfield.
Signed by 28 Australian and international artists, the letter states the artists’ opposition to the Australian government’s offshore immigration detention centres in Nauru and Manus Island (PNG). These centres are managed by the operations, maintenance and construction company, Transfield Services. The Biennale of Sydney is funded by the Transfield Foundation (a joint venture of Transfield Services and Transfield Holdings) and Transfield Holdings (a shareholder of Transfield Services).
The artists’ opposition is on the grounds that mandatory detention is in contravention of Australia’s binding obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child; and their concern about being funded by an arts organisation whose sponsor is profiting from the policy.
Artists were appealed to in a call to boycott the exhibition, issued early February 2014, which was sparked by the expansion of the company’s role in the offshore immigration detention centres into garrison and welfare services.
“We are taking this very seriously. Some artists are reconsidering their participation, and others organising different forms of protest from within. A significant group of Australian and international artists have agreed that an open letter to the board is a constructive step forward,” spokesperson for the group, Gabrielle de Vietri, stated. “Still other artists have proposed to join with the Biennale team in an effort to develop alternative modes of fundraising.”
In Sydney and Melbourne this week artists, advocacy groups and activists are mobilising to share information, ideas and support to develop multiple and effective ways to send a message to the Australian Government and Transfield Services that they will not support the mandatory detention of asylum seekers.