Buried alive: Per­for­mance artist Mike Parr begins 72-hour entombment

Melanie Kembrey
The Age, 15 June 2018
For a man about to be buried alive, Mike Parr made lit­tle fuss. To the cheers and cam­era flash­es of a large crowd, the 72-year-old swift­ly climbed down the lad­der into the steel con­tain­er where he will be interred for three days, with­out food, beneath one of Tas­ma­ni­a’s busiest roads. 
Mike Parr will spend 72 hours buried under­ground in this cham­ber. Pho­to: Supplied

Parr is famous for push­ing art, and human endurance, to its lim­its. The Aus­tralian artist’s intense per­for­mances have includ­ed sewing up his face, nail­ing his arm to the wall and being splat­tered with his own blood.

Short­ly after he entered the spe­cial­ly-built cham­ber (it mea­sures in at 4.5m x 1.7m x 2.2m) on Thurs­day night, the bitu­men was resealed above him and the busy thor­ough­fare out­side Hobart’s Town Hall re-opened to traffic. 
A crane clos­es over Par­r’s home for the next three days, as the crowd in Tas­ma­nia watch­es on. Pho­to: Supplied
Beneath the ground for 72 hours, Parr has with him a copy of Robert Hugh­es’ account of the coloni­sa­tion of Aus­tralia, The Fatal Shore, a sketch­pad and pen­cils, a med­i­ta­tion stool, a light, bed­ding, water, a fold­ing stool and wash and waste buck­ets. Air is being sup­plied through a fan and there is a pan­ic but­ton in case of emer­gency (organ­is­ers say that they can exca­vate Parr in a mat­ter of min­utes).

The work, enti­tled Under­neath the Bitu­men the Artist, is Par­r’s third and final for the Muse­um of Old and New Art’s annu­al win­ter fes­ti­val Dark Mofo.

It has been described as a trib­ute to vic­tims of 20th-cen­tu­ry total­i­tar­i­an­ism, and a mon­u­ment to the Abo­rig­i­nal vic­tims of British colo­nial violence. 
Cars dri­ving over Par­r’s new­ly-sealed cham­ber. Pho­to: Supplied
Dark Mofo cura­tor Jar­rod Rawl­ins described Parr as very calm, very relaxed, very focused” in the hours lead­ing up this bur­ial. Parr has been fast­ing in prepa­ra­tion, and did not give any inter­views in the imme­di­ate lead-up to is entomb­ment. There are many points to this piece. The artist does­n’t make a claim for any­thing spe­cif­ic about this piece. You bring to it what you will,” Rawl­ins said.

Mike wants to talk about total­i­tar­i­an vio­lence through­out the world, not just in Aus­tralia, and so it is a glob­al issue for him. But Mike is very care­ful to make sure every­one under­stands that this is not a rep­re­sen­ta­tion of any­thing. This is actu­al­ly about what what you want to bring to it.”

While some Tas­man­ian Abo­rig­i­nals have said they were insult­ed” by the work and the fact they were not con­sult­ed before­hand, oth­ers came to show their sup­port for Parr. 
This is actu­al­ly about what what you want to bring to it.
Tas­man­ian Abo­rig­i­nal Cen­tre spokesman Michael Mansell said too many peo­ple were in the dark about the near total erad­i­ca­tion of Abo­rig­i­nal peo­ple in Tas­ma­nia and Parr was mak­ing a very, very coura­geous point”. This man here said, I’m going to be buried for three days because I think too much truth is being buried’.

That’s the point we have been try­ing to make for the last 200 years and it takes things like this to make peo­ple sit up and listen.”

Parr will be unearthed on Sun­day, 9pm and his steel cham­ber and its con­tents will be back-filled, pre­served under the road for future generations. 
Dark Mofo takes place in Hobart, Tas­ma­nia, until June 24. Melanie Kem­brey trav­elled to Tas­ma­nia cour­tesy of Dark Mofo.
Arti­cle link: here
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