An Australian festival has apologised over a controversial proposed artwork that would have involved soaking the UK flag in the blood of indigenous people.
The music and arts festival Dark Mofo sparked anger when it sent out a request for people to take part in a work by the Spanish artist Santiago Sierra, asking for “First Nations peoples from countries claimed by the British Empire” to donate small amounts of blood.
Sierra’s polarising work has often commented on human suffering and previously involved hiring labourers to complete menial tasks - a practice that he claimed was meant to comment on the nature of capitalist society.
His latest installation supposedly intended to convey the pain and destruction caused by colonialism, but has been condemned as “abusive” and “tone-deaf” by critics.
On behalf of artist Santiago Sierra, we are looking for people to take part in Union Flag: a new artwork that will… https://t.co/kakqKDOIYd
Following backlash against the proposal, Dark Mofo released a statement from its creative director Leigh Carmichael saying the festival would not be proceeding with the project, acknowledging it had “made a mistake”.
#BREAKING: @Dark_Mofo will not be proceeding with an art performance, which was going to soak the British flag in I… https://t.co/aobDA0Z8yM
Meanwhile, Sierra has responded disapprovingly to the decision and sparked further controversy on Tuesday when he shared an Instagram post with the words: “Often the slave defends the symbols of the master.”
Critics of the proposed artwork have argued that a wealthy Spanish artist asking for the blood of indigenous people is exploitative and disrespectful:
@Dark_Mofo A coloniser artist intending to produce art with the actual blood of colonised people is abusive, coloni… https://t.co/lm8ijUx3uF
— Claire G. Coleman (@Claire G. Coleman)
the colony has taken way too much of our blood already. In fact every drop already is one to many.… https://t.co/xU5k75a4Y5