Dark Mofo criticised after requesting First Nations blood for 'abusive, re-traumatising' art project

A Spanish artist wants to immerse the British flag in the donated blood of First Nations peoples as part of an artwork at Tasmania's Dark Mofo festival.

Dark Mofo is calling for Indigenous people to donate their blood for an art exhibition.

Dark Mofo is calling for Indigenous people to donate their blood for an art exhibition. Source: SBS / , Dark Mofo website

Tasmania's Dark Mofo art festival has defended plans to immerse the British flag in the blood of First Nations people, despite an online backlash.

"We’ve been overwhelmed with responses to Santiago Sierra’s Union Flag by Indigenous and non-Indigenous people from around the world," the festival's Creative Director Leigh Carmichael said in a statement. "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.

"The range of perspectives reflects the conversations we had with Tasmanian Aboriginal people prior to announcing the project.

"It’s not surprising that the atrocities committed as a result of colonising nations continue to haunt us." 

The festival on Saturday put out posts on social media, telling Indigenous people "we want your blood" for an upcoming work by Spanish artist Santiago Sierra. 

Sierra plans to select participants from "countries that were colonised by the British Empire" to donate a small amount of blood, which will be combined in an aluminium bucket before the Union Jack is immersed.

"The intent of this project is against colonialism," Sierra said in a letter posted by Dark Mofo. "It is an acknowledgement of the pain and destruction colonialism has caused First Nations peoples, devastating entire cultures and civilisations."

But many have taken to social media to criticise the plan and the further shedding of Indigenous blood.

“A coloniser artist intending to produce art with the actual blood of colonised people is abusive, colonising and re-traumatising. The idea is disgusting and terrible and should not have been considered,” Noongar writer Claire Coleman tweeted.

“Our blood is sacred, your art is not. How about centring Blak voices rather than white artists,” Gomeroi journalist Madeline Hayman-Reber posted.

"What a way to reveal that there are no First Nations folks in your curational / consulting teams," musician Kira Puru wrote in an Instagram comment.

Trawlwoolway pakana man Jamie Graham-Blair said Indigenous artists should be given the money and platform to talk about the impact of colonisation instead.

"Indigenous bodies are not tools to be used by colonisers," he said in an Instagram story. "We are not props for your white guilt art."

Mr Graham-Blair called for other artists involved in Dark Mofo to "seriously consider" their involvement with the festival.

"I know they're 'edgy' and into 'dark' art but this isn't art. It's white nonsense," he said. 

Nala Mansell, campaign manager for the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre, said they supported Sierra acknowledging Indigenous bloodshed, but not the use of Indigenous blood. 

"While we support the concept of the British flag being immersed in blood to symbolise the invasion, murder, rape and theft committed against Aborigines and the blood shed of our ancestors, we feel that we have shed enough blood over the past 220 years, we don’t want to shed anymore,” Ms Mansell said.

SBS News has contacted Dark Mofo for comment.

3 min read
Published 22 March 2021 at 2:02pm
By Jarni Blakkarly
Source: SBS