Despite protests, Tasmania gives Nitsch his biggest-ever audience

As people queued for Hermann Nitsch’s 150.Action, part of the Hobart-based MONA Museum’s Dark Mofo festival on 17 June, a group of 50 animal rights activists held a peaceful protest outside the venue. 

With a large line of attendees starting to snake its way into the security screening area, protestors offered up alternatives, “why not go to the beach instead” said one protestor, “visit an animal sanctuary”, said another.

But this audience was not interested, they were here for the challenging art experiences that have helped put the privately-owned-museum and its festival offshoot on the map.

Hermann Nitsch’s 150.Action (Image: Dark Mofo/Lusy Productions)

“Asking people to push themselves out of their comfort zone is core to our ethos,” said Dark Mofo’s artistic director, Leigh Carmichael. 

The protests, that started in response to the announcement of “a bloody, sacrificial ritual performed by the patriarch of Viennese Actionism,” gained momentum in the lead up to the event. Over 22,000 people signed an online petition, and at one stage the festival cancelled tickets after a plot to disrupt the performance was discovered.

In five short years, Dark Mofo festival, has turned winter, once the quietest time of the year, into a peak tourist season. But in programming 150.Action, had Carmichael gone too far this time?

Nitsch is no stranger to controversy. In 1988, on his first visit to Australia, Police seized video tapes from his exhibition of blood paintings at the seventh Sydney Biennale. 

Surprisingly, Nitsch shares the views of the animal rights activists that decry him, “I show with my work, what we are doing against the animals. That’s the great misunderstanding,” Nitsch said ahead of the performance in Tasmania.

Once known as Australia’s most conservative state, 150.Action was going to be a test of Tasmania’s willingness to embrace its new identity as a world-leading,…

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