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Artist Has Himself Buried Alive in Memorial to Victims

Mike Parr, 73, went underground to make a statement
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 16, 2018 4:30 PM CDT
This split image shows Mike Parr, left, descending into a 25-foot-square box under a road in Hobart, Australia, for a performance piece called "Underneath the Bitumen the Artist," on Thursday, June 14,...   (YouTube)

(Newser) – An Australian artist has been buried alive with a bucket and a book, but don't worry—they plan to dig him out Sunday. More than 3,000 people watched Thursday as Mike Parr, 73, descended a ladder into a 25-foot-square box under a road in Hobart, Australia, for a performance piece called "Underneath the Bitumen the Artist," the New York Times reports. The confinement was billed as a memorial to victims of totalitarian violence and British colonialism in Australia, notes ABC News Australia, but many assumed it was about local Aboriginal Tasmanian history being buried—particularly the 19th-century Black War in which British settlers nearly wiped out Indigenous Tasmanians. And that sparked a few fighting words.

"It is a bit insulting, really," says Tasmanian Aboriginal Center CEO Heather Sculthorpe, per Pedestrian. "If they have any interest in telling the Aboriginal story then they should have put it out there for Aboriginal people to do it." But an Aboriginal activist called Parr "courageous" and said that "we support this bloke." Meanwhile, Parr sits below Hobart traffic with his thermos and a microphone that lets his team monitor his breathing. The apparent risk is old hat for Parr, who in past works has nailed his arm to a wall, sewn his mouth shut, and stayed in a glass cage for 10 days with only water to survive. But what if he never emerges from this one? "I haven't thought of that," he says. "No, no, no, I'm coming out definitely. I have all sorts of performance plans." (National Geographic admits its past coverage of Australian Aboriginals and others has been racist.)

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