The festival Dark Mofo has responded to backlash it incurred after asking Indigenous peoples to donate blood for an anti-colonial art project this past weekend.
Union Flag, a project by Spanish artist Santiago Sierra, is set to feature the Union Jack immersed in the blood of those native to territories colonised by Britain.
On Saturday (March 20), the Tasmanian festival put a call out to First Nations peoples residing in Australia, asking them to “donate a small amount of blood to the artwork”.
Once completed, the flag will be displayed as part of Dark Mofo’s 2021 iteration, currently set for June.
“We already gave enough blood,” Briggs commented on Instagram. Puru added that Dark Mofo’s request was “unacceptable”, saying that she “really thought this particular festival would be better than that”.
“White people further capitalising on the literal blood of First Nations people. Are you fucking kidding?”
On Sunday (March 21), DRMNGNOW addressed Dark Mofo in a post on social media. “As a First Nations artist that had performed at your event previously, I find it sickingly [sic] disturbing that you would release an Expression Of Interest for the acquisition of yet more of our spilt blood,” he wrote. “To support a white artist to use our blood in the name of art, at that.”
On Monday (March 22), Dark Mofo’s creative director Leigh Carmichael issued a statement that was shared on the festival’s Facebook page.
“We’ve been overwhelmed with responses to Santiago Sierra’s Union Flag by Indigenous and non-Indigenous people from around the world,” it read. “We understand, respect and appreciate the many diverse views in relation to this confronting project.”
“Self-expression is a fundamental human right, and we support artists to make and present work regardless of their nationality or cultural background.”
Carmichael went on to say that the festival had had conversations with “Tasmanian Aboriginal people” before it announced the project, which were reflected by “the range of perspectives”.
“It’s not surprising that the atrocities committed as a result of colonising nations continue to haunt us,” Carmichael’s statement concluded. Read it here.
Carmichael had previously told the ABC that Santiago Sierra had been commissioned to present a new work for Dark Mofo, and that Union Flag was “the result of almost two years of work between his studio and the festival team”.
Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre’s Nala Mansell told the ABC that while she understood the artwork’s educational potential, she was uncertain about the festival’s request for Indigenous blood.
“I think Aboriginal people have had a lot of blood spilt over the last 200 years,” she said.
“I understand the idea of blood on the flag, but I’m not sure if it’s appropriate to be calling for Aboriginal people to be donating blood when we have already had enough blood spilt as it is.
“I just think there might be other ways of signifying the blood that was spilt without having to ask Aboriginal people to do so.”