Mike Parr, a 73-year-old Australian performance artist, recently spent three days in a container buried under one of the busiest roads in Tasmania, with no food, as a “response to 20th-century totalitarian violence in all its forms”.
The unusual performance was apparently conceived a decade ago for an arts festival in Germany, but could not be pulled off due to health and safety concerns. However, the Hobart City Council, in Tasmania, approved it last month, as part of the Dark Mofo festival, as long as the organizers agreed to cover the roadwork bill. That included literally cutting a section of road and digging a large hole under it in order to lower a large metal container in it, and covering it up so that traffic could go on as usual for the three days Mike Parr spent buried inside.
Photo: Dark Mofo/Facebook
Despite getting the green light from the city council, organizers of the stunt had their work cut out for them. For one thing, they had to build the metal container themselves, after the original manufacturer pulled out upon hearing that a person would be buried in it for several days. They had to make sure that enough air made inside the underground temporary home, and that the lighting and other amenities worked properly.
On Thursday night, under the watchful eye of a crowd of curious bystanders, 73-year-old artist Mike Parr went into the container and the asphalt lid was placed over it. The man spent three days under the road, with no food, just some bottles of water and kombucha, a small heater and some thick clothing. He reportedly spent most of his time meditating, drawing, fasting and reading Robert Hughes’s The Fatal Shore.
On Sunday evening, at 9 pm, the road cutout was lifted again, and Mike Parr climbed out of his temporary underground home.
Although Dark Mofo festival officials have claimed that Mr. Parr’s performance was a response to violence in general, on a global level, many have speculated that it was in fact meant to symbolize the cover-up of the slaughter of the indigenous population in Tasmania, particularly during the Black War, a 19th-century conflict fought between British settlers and Indigenous Tasmanians, who were virtually wiped out.
Mike Parr’s stunt is reminiscent of the performance of Abraham Poincheval, a French performance artist known for sealing himself in tight spaces.