As Hermann Nitsch’s controversial 150 Action performance at Dark Mofo creeps closer, an Australian art patron and cattle owner has questioned the nature of the Hobart performance given its apparent message.
Cattle station baroness Janet Holmes a Court said the killing of an animal in the name of art did not “excite” her.
“I was struck by the killing of an animal, and rubbing oneself in it’s blood and entrails,” she said.
“My interpretation is that there’s a message [about] cruelty to animals, but if you want to talk about animal cruelty, then it’s probably a good idea not be cruel to animals.”
The three-hour show, directed by 78-year-old Nitsch for the Dark Mofo winter festival now underway, has been promoted as a “bloody, sacrificial ritual performed by the patriarch of Viennese Actionism, his devoted disciples and an orchestra”.
Performers rub themselves with the carcass, entrails and blood of a bull killed before the performance.
Ms Holmes a Court — who is in Hobart from Western Australia to judge the third biannual Lloyd Rees Art Prize — said while she would not be attending Dark Mofo, the performance caught her eye in the program list.
“My role here is as a judge of the Lloyd Rees Art Prize,” she said.
“I didn’t come for Dark Mofo. I always come for MONA FOMA [Museum of Old and New Art’s Festival of Music and Art] … all I’ve seen of Dark Mofo is the red lights on the bridge and a few buildings.”
The 73-year-old art patron said she hadn’t “read enough” about Nitsch’s performance, but would question him on the purpose.
“I would ask him what his message is … but it didn’t appeal to me,” she said.
“I would really be asking him questions … I wouldn’t really comment to him [Nitsch] about it until I’d really cross-examined him.”
Promotional image for Austrian artist Hermann Nitsch show. (Supplied: Georg Soulek/Hermann Nitsch/Dark Mofo)
There’s still time to cancel the event: animal rights activist
A petition started to cancel the event has reach more than 21,500 supporters.
On Monday, Animal Liberation Tasmania, who started the petition, made one last appeal to Dark Mofo organisers to save the bull being used in the performance.
Animal Liberation Tasmania’s Kristy Alger said there was still time to cancel the event.
“What we’re looking at is a bull just being slaughtered because we can … we have information that leads us to believe that the bull may potentially still be alive,” she said.
Ms Alger said the bull would not be eaten at the end of the performance.
“The bull is going to be discarded as mere fertiliser so really any moral investigations that MONA might have been presenting is completely undermined,” she said.
“We want to reissue the offer of sanctuary at Brightside Animal Sanctuary and give this bull a chance at a decent life.”
Dark Mofo organisers declined to comment and Nitsch’s performance is scheduled go ahead on Saturday.
Last month, fears of a plot to sabotage the art show led Dark Mofo organisers to reissue tickets because of concerns for the “safety of the artist, performers and audience”.
Dark Mofo’s creative director Leigh Carmichael said the ticket cancellation and reissuing was “necessary” after they found a number of people who registered to attend had done so to “disrupt the performance” or “deny access to others”.
“We believe the number of tickets affected is approximately 200, and therefore significant enough to pose credible concerns around disruption,” he said.
While tickets have been reissued for the event, the location is yet to be revealed.
The organisers have stated the animal would be slaughtered humanely before the performance.