Artwork featuring a burqa made from the Australian flag has been displayed for less than 48 hours on a building in Tallangatta before being removed.
It was one of three pieces by Ashlee Laing featured temporarily across the town as part of the Building Art on Walls project.
Laing, a local artist and business owner, received government funding to run the unique project where four artists will take turns displaying their work for eight weeks at a time.
Untitled (Oi Oi Oi) is a photograph of Laing wearing the flag as a burqa.
It was labelled a ‘disgrace’ in a post on social media on Saturday, and was met with similar negative commentary.
By the next morning Laing had been told by another local the building’s owners had removed the artwork.
“The work is about provoking you into thinking, what do I think about this?” he said.
“It’s complex and it’s about bringing that to a conversation, not just giving a Facebook reaction, which is what our culture has turned into.
“People are so offended by these two symbols mixed together, (but) they don’t ask themselves why they’re offended.”
Laing held an artist ‘walk and talk’ at Teddy’s Joint on Sunday attended by about 50 people, who viewed his two other works focused on the politics of belonging, one superimposing the Southern Cross tattoo on refugees.
“This is not a project about Tallangatta’s history … positioning artworks in a regional context will surprise some viewers, not expecting to see this discourse in a small country town,” he said.
“Many provoke strong responses or contradict personal beliefs of societal values.
“Bringing contemporary art into communities promotes curiosity, encourages dialogue and initiates debate about the world and the issues that affect our lives.
“There’s huge amounts of money to be made in tourism through art – look at MAMA, look at MONA.”
Sandy Creek resident Helem Lemke attended the artist meet and greet and said the removed piece was no doubt controversial, but she didn’t find it offensive personally.
“I think it’s certainly a talking point,” she said.
“Contemporary art is about expanding your horizons.
“Art is a process, and it’s great to hear from the artist what the process is and the cues they want you to relate to ... (otherwise) you might be confused about what’s going on.”
Steven Rhall was the first artist to feature in the project and displayed his work over the past two months before Laing’s was installed.
Raquel Ormella, a lecturer at the Australian National University, will display her work next, followed by another local artist, Belinda Fraser.
The story Controversial artwork removed from building in Tallangatta first appeared on The Border Mail (Suzuka2).