Three nights’ accommodation at the Coburg Motor Inn and the prospect of being fast tracked through the system might sound good at a glance. Three nights in a motel may be a treat, but that’s where the support ends – where are people supposed to go next? As for being fast tracked up the public housing list, it would mean displacing people who’ve been waiting on that list already, often for years.
In A handful of sand, Charlie Ward goes beyond photogenic myth to tell a harder story about this famous land rights battle. It’s a tale of the hollowness of political promises, clashes between different levels of government, white ‘helpers’ of varying degrees of assiduousness, and differences of opinion between younger and older Gurindji about the kind of future they wanted to build. Particularly frustrating are the accounts of unrealistic goals foisted onto the Gurindji, which created ‘tensions between the elders’ modest goals [for their land] and the prescriptive demands of the state’.
Two weeks ago, social media lit up in a fever dream of outrage. This time, because a corporation hijacked the imagery and aesthetics of resistance movements as part of a daft strategy to sell soft drink to millennials. Most disturbingly, Pepsi’s ad appropriated the imagery of the Black Lives Matter movement, ultimately trivialising police brutality. However I suspect that there’s another hidden, murkier reason that this ad got the left into such a tizzy: because it draws attention to our own always-already co-opted, neutered gestures of resistance.
The use of animals in performance art is nothing new. Nitsch himself has been performing iterations of 150.Action since the 1960s, the heyday of the short-lived but influential Viennese Actionist movement, whose works were grounded in nakedness, violence and destruction, and which often breached obscenity laws and provoked widespread moral outrage. Recent examples are just as easy to point at.
As Jennifer Bagelman observed in research with the Glasgow City of Sanctuary, sanctuary measures such as employment programs and social events, all aimed at a future that is still in abeyance, can simply feel like ‘dependency, uselessness, and invisibility’ for people who have no other choice but to rely on the self-congratulatory services of the sanctuary city, all while having no certainty about whether a life without the need for sanctuary will ever be possible.