Activists Threaten to “Poison” Major Artwork

ENVIRONMENTAL activists have threatened to target a Brisbane exhibition by one of the world’s

Chinese artist Cai Gou-Qiang with Heritage 2013 which features 99 replicas of animals from around the world, gathered together to drink from a blue lake surrounded by pristine white sand.

Chinese artist Cai Gou-Qiang with Heritage 2013 which features 99 replicas of animals from around the world, gathered together to drink from a blue lake surrounded by pristine white sand.

leading contemporary artists.

Anti-mining and resources group Generation Alpha has written to Cai Guo-Qiang, challenging him to disassociate himself from coal seam gas company Santos which is sponsoring his major “Falling Back To Earth Show’’ at the Gallery of Modern Art (GoMA).

With no response after a month, the protesters say they will now target his centrepiece installation — the stunning “Heritage 2013” featuring 99 life-size animals drinking from a pristine lake — which has attracted 135,000 visitors so far.

The exhibition runs until May 11. A family fun day including guided tours of the show is being held at the galley this Sunday.

A GoMA spokeswoman confirmed they were aware of the letter to Mr Guo-Qiang and had alerted police.

“The Gallery has security and risk management procedures in place,’’ she said.

Generation Alpha spokesman Ben Pennings said they would symbolically “poison’’ the water in the artwork, but promised there would be no permanent damage. He would not give further details but The Courier-Mail understands the plan involves coloured dye.

“It’s beyond ironic that an artwork featuring crystal clear water is being sponsored by fracking company Santos,’’ Mr Pennings said.

“Fracking involves dozens of poisonous chemicals that threaten water tables and water poisoning.’’

Santos was fined $1500 by the Environment Protection Authority in New South Wales last month after an aquifer was contaminated with uranium 20 times higher than safe drinking water levels. Santos said the levels posed no risk to humans or animals but the company is spending $17 million remediating the area.

In its letter to Mr Guo-Qiang, Generation Alpha says: “Your work Heritage 2013 speaks of natural heritage, and is reportedly inspired by the Queensland landscape. It evokes a sense of awe for the Earth’s natural beauty, and the preciousness of clean water to support life.

“We cannot imagine a worse sponsor for your work.

“Although your work will be the focus of our action, we will not damage it. We have the upmost (sic) respect for the work itself and for your intentions.’’

Mr Pennings said he did not expect any public backlash to the planned action because there was widespread opposition to coal seam gas in the state. The protest would be called off if Santos’ sponsorship was withdrawn or cancelled.

He said many GoMA staff were unhappy about the sponsorship and his group had “inside information about how we can symbolically ‘poison’ the water while not damaging the artwork’’.

The GoMA spokeswoman said it had no intention of scrapping the sponsorship. “Santos’ five-year partnership with the gallery is the most significant single corporate investment in the gallery’s history.

“The artist and the gallery support the right of groups such as Generation Alpha to protest peacefully in a way that doesn’t interfere with our visitors’ experience and safety, or the safety of the artworks on display.”

She said she was confident all staff were committed to the safety of works on show.

In December 2012, members of the same group dressed as zombies to protest at the opening of the Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art at GoMA, which was also sponsored by Santos. They were evicted from the building by police before they could reach the podium where the official ceremony was taking place.

A Santos spokesman said the company operated its business safely and responsibly and was pleased to contribute to the community through its support of GoMA.

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