Australia MONA's David Walsh defends 'slaughter' art show, says public outrage good for business, Tas economy

07:45  20 april  2017
07:45  20 april  2017 Source:   ABC News

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Gambling millionaire, MONA owner and eccentric genius David Walsh has weighed into the controversy over an upcoming performance at the Dark Mofo festival involving a freshly slaughtered bull by saying that public outrage is great for the Tasmanian economy .

MONA founder David Walsh, as pictured on his museum's website. © Museum of Old and New Art/ ABC News MONA founder David Walsh, as pictured on his museum's website. David Walsh, millionaire founder of Tasmania's acclaimed Museum of Old and New Art, responds to the controversy surrounding an upcoming performance a freshly slaughtered bull by saying that outrage is good for business and the public's morbid fascination with "disaster tourism" is a benefit to the economy.

Walsh suggested the backlash to a three-hour "installation" directed by Austrian artist Hermann Nitsch, titled 150 Action, had served his purposes and "spiked a conversation" about meat.

Walsh, 56, took to social media after a public backlash over the use of the animal widened, with an Animal Liberation Tasmania online petition against the event garnering almost 14,500 signatures.

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  MONA's David Walsh defends 'slaughter' art show, says public outrage good for business, Tas economy © Provided by ABC News (AU) Walsh, whose gallery has exhibited a "suicide machine" invented by voluntary euthanasia campaigner Dr Philip Nitschke, and other controversial works, said he wanted the audience to "ponder why meat for food is OK but meat for ritual or entertainment isn't", and suggested "disaster tourism" was good for the state economy.

In a blog post, published on Wednesday, he wrote: "Imagine I, David Walsh, go down into the gallery, kill someone at random, and call it art. A lovely ironic way to do this would be to put the suicide machine on display, but make it work. My defence would be: It's a work of art — a lesson in the complex consequences of immorality.

"What would happen to the Tasmanian economy? My guess is MONA would go from being well known globally to being a household word. Disaster tourism would drive MONA to the top of the charts, and Tasmania's economy would go along for the ride.

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"I'd see the spectacular increase in dark tourism from my prison cell, of course. And, as they dragged me away, you would probably hear me shouting something about the greater good ... I might well end up in the cell next to Martin Bryant." Nitsch, whom Walsh described has described as a "fat, demented sloth, a good bloke, and in my opinion, a great social artist", has used blood and animal entrails to explore the themes of ritual, sacrifice in his performance works for decades.

The Dark Mofo show will be Nitsch's first performance in Australia.

But he challenged its opponents to "get out there and stop it".

"Recently, there has been a rising tide of opposition to a Hermann Nitsch project planned for Dark Mofo. He uses a bull marked for slaughter to ritualistically cover a bunch of people in blood ... I expect the tide to keep rising," he said.

"If Nitsch's performance is wrong ... get out there and stop it. It won't be a disaster for Tassie, since it'll just generate a few headlines and a bunch of Facebook discussion. "But stopping Nitsch won't stop me doing the sort of self-serving, status-enhancing, biologically bound good that I do through MONA. You should be protesting that, too.

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"And you also should have a crack at getting your own 'house in order' (as the Bible says).

"For, as the Bible also says, 'why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?'."

Walsh thanked one critic of the show by name, and said her opposition had resulted in "spiking a conversation ... about the appropriateness of slaughter and Dark Mofo hasn't even happened yet".

"That isn't what the artist intends, but MONA has a history of repurposing art to serve its own psychological or political purpose," he wrote.

Walsh said even if Nitsch's performance at Dark Mofo was scrapped, he stood to benefit financially.

Lord Mayor Sue Hickey, who has acknowledged Walsh had reinvigorated the Tasmanian economy, described the show as "brutal" and "just sick".

"He (Walsh) has always said he wants to push our buttons and challenge us, well I think (with this performance) we are pushing toilet buttons and vomiting — this is really one step to far," she told ABC Radio Hobart today.

"These are naked women and naked men on slabs pretending to be dead, and they have got animal blood pouring out of their vaginas. Is that art? "If we allowed people to pay for tickets and go to a snuff movie where people are murdered for the sake of art, is that acceptable?

"I am not being hypocritical. This is brutal. It is just sick.

"This is emulating violence to women; (in the performance) they have got their throats pretending to be slashed and blood coming from their private parts."

Yesterday, Alderman Hickey said she had signed the online petition which called for council to "cancel" the show and said she would investigate council's options, including sponsorship of Dark Mofo.

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