An Australian performance artist has been buried alive in a box under a busy section of road in the capital of Tasmania.
Mike Parr, 73, was entombed on Thursday night under Hobart’s Macquarie Street for his work entitled Underneath the Bitumen – the Artist.
Parr will apparently spend 72 hours meditating, drawing, fasting and reading Robert Hughes’s The Fatal Shore. He will be excavated on Sunday at 9pm local time.
In preparation for his performance a section of Macquarie Street was blocked off, a hole cut into it and a steel container placed in the void.
The container is a steel box measuring 4.5m x 1.7m x 2.2m. It was constructed by a team at Dark Mofo – the ongoing arts festival in Hobart. The original box manufacturers pulled out on discovering that a man would be buried under a road in it.
A tube has been fitted under the road to allow air to reach the artist.
By 10.30pm on the Thursday the road had been resealed and opened to traffic. Passersby posted photos of buses rolling over Parr’s section of road.
According to organisers of Dark Mofo, the artist’s stay underground is a “response to 20th-century totalitarian violence in all its forms”.
But some local Indigenous groups have responded to the work negatively – saying the idea was insulting to members of the Aboriginal community.
Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre (TAC) CEO Heather Sculthorpe told the ABC, “If they have any interest in telling the Aboriginal story then they should have put it out there for Aboriginal people to do it.
“We have a lot of great storytellers and some old fella under a road is not the way to do it.”
Dark Mofo clarified the art work’s intent saying “this work is NOT a representation of Tasmania’s history of colonial violence in particular, but the global experience.
“This work is about the NULL of the image – there is no artist, there is no performance, there is no artwork. Life resumes as normal, and we are left with the anxiety of knowing what has transpired, for the duration of the 72 hours.”
The work was originally conceived a decade ago for an arts festival in Germany, but health and safety issues meant that the work was too problematic to perform.
Hobart City Council approved the work last month and the bill for the roadworks is being footed by Dark Mofo.
On Thursday night, crowds filed past the cavity where Parr was to be buried, and stared in – as if paying their respects at an open-casket funeral.
A small bar heater was solemnly lowered into the void (winter in Hobart is brutal, even underground) as was a large thermos.