Australian politics, society & culture

Performance Art Masterpiece

Mike Parr - 'Close the Concentration Camps', 2002

Anne Marsh

Short read200 words
 
Cover: October 2011
October 2011
An Australian–Indonesian production - 'The Theft of Sita', 2000
Robyn Archer
Art Gallery of NSW - 24 September 2011 to 5 February 2012
Sebastian Smee
Tanja Liedtke - 'construct', 2007
Deborah Jones
Justin Hamilton - 'Circular', 2011
Tim Ferguson
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Sarah Blasko - 'As Day Follows Night', 2009
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A Dining Experience at Hobart’s Garagistes
Robyn Davidson
James Ledger - 'Chronicles', 2009
Andrew Ford
A Guide to the Murray Darling Basin
Kate Jennings
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Gail Bell

A man sits slumped in a chair; he wears a black suit, white shirt and no tie. His right trouser leg is ripped across the thigh revealing the word ‘alien’ branded into his skin. This is a six-hour endurance piece. During this time his lips, eyes and ears are sewn together, rough surgical sutures cross his face, blood and iodine solution run from the wounds onto his white shirt. The man can’t speak; his vision is impaired. Before him a huge mirror reflects the viewers, mostly standing back against the clean white walls, secondary witnesses to the trauma enacted on the artist’s body.

The text along one wall incites us to ‘CLOSE THE CONCENTRATION CAMPS’. In a separate room excerpts from Not the Hilton: Immigration Detention Centres: Inspection Report, published in 2000, are projected onto the walls. Parr’s action is an empathetic gesture, in recognition of the trauma experienced by ‘illegal’ immigrants who were, at the time, sewing their lips shut as a protest against their prolonged incarceration.

Mike Parr consistently uses his body as a site for radical actions that explore the psychopathology of people and society. Staged almost a decade ago, this powerful work still resonates politically and speaks to the nation’s shame.

—Anne Marsh