‘Vicious Ingratitude’ and art writing’s role in artistic dissent

The widely publicised artists’ boycott of the Sydney Festival in January 2022 over the Israeli embassy’s $20,000 donation to the Sydney Dance Company was not the first of its kind in Australia. In February 2014, a group of artists led a similar boycott of the nineteenth Biennale of Sydney (BoS) in protest of their sponsorship agreement with Transfield Services. This call to boycott was published as an open letter in an online blog by Sydney arts educator Matt Kiem, asking artists to consider the ethics of participating in a biennale funded partly by profits from Australia’s mandatory detention centres on Manus Island and Nauru. This appeal to the arts sector was met with passionate support and was followed by an open letter to the board of the BoS from thirty-four participating artists, urging the board to withdraw their sponsorship arrangements with Transfield Services. In contrast to the 2022 protest, these letters of dissent, coupled with the consequent outpouring of (at times uneven) public support, led to the rapid success of the boycott (from the organiser’s perspective), as sponsorship was dropped and artists resumed their participation in the biennale.

Buy   or   Subscribe   or   Login