Thursday, 27 November 2008


Statement issued from the artist:

"1. Body modification is not a recent manifestation of modern performance art, it has a 50 year history that can easily be traced.

2. Branding originates from a ritualistic tribal practise traditionally used to mark a rite of passage facilitating the journey from one life stage to another (typically into adulthood). A recognized and respected tradition, the individual undertaking a rite of passage was supported by the others in the community in order to be able to cope with the trials of such a process. It was an opportunity for celebration, and was regarded as a milestone in the life of the community and above all of the individual.

Essentially the branding for me was an opportunity to externalise the pain that so many people feel, for those that are trapped in a system that they are not capable of escaping. It explicitly references so much that it seems redundant to even express a position about amongst other things: prison camps, slavery etc

Many people have expressed disgust at the knowledge that I have received payments from Centrelink. Statistics from the Centrelink website state that they serve 6.5 million customers, that’s one-third of the Australian population whose stories are entirely unknown. Here’s a graph of the Australian population:

Is the work a lesser piece of art because of my intimate knowledge? If the work had been made by someone who worked at Centrelink it seems to me that they would not be labelled as an artist but rather a social crusader. And if I was neither a recipient or an administrator what qualifies me to make such a work at all? I would be merely meddling, taking an issue at hand and making art, like a first year university student enrolled in ART POLITICS 101.

People have said that my willingness to undergo such suffering is a testament to my dedication, but I do not equate the pain I experienced to artistic integrity.
I do not play a character in my work. I am not a blank slate. I bring with me histories, flaws, pains and joys. I am first and foremost myself: a human being."

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Branding documentation

402 807 197K went smashingly smooth, tho still causing a lot of controversy. Assisted by Gray Taylor, Zak Bennett and Akean Lewinski, Bethany J Fellows was branded with her Centrelink Customer Reference Number at Fitzroy Centrelink on Wednesday the 19th of November. There was minimal fuss with security, The Law and Centrelink staff ("We can't have people burning themselves outside Centrelink" a Centrelink employee was heard to exclaim halfway through the performance). The Artist's leg was strike branded a total of 33 times as she read out a letter to Centrelink. The performance went for approximately 10 minutes and spectators mostly said that the piece was very beautiful and moving but also nauseating. Bethany will post an Artist's statement later today. Her leg is healing well.

CRN later that night
Here's the letter Bethany read whilst she got burnt:
Dear Centrelink,
Mood: Shackled, liberated, contrary
I said I would never do this, I struggle so much in my life to be open in my communication, to give my words shape verbally and not scribed. And so I read this letter aloud, a prompt so I don't forget, lose the guts, start crying. We've been doing this foxtrot for seven years, very different creatures, trying to just BE.
You've supported me through some real rough times and I am forever indebted. I cannot overstate how much you have informed and changed my life. I know you don't feel the same, and after so much waiting, I know you never will, AND that reciprocity is obviously one of my major challenges in life and I accept that that's my problem. But you've also really let me down.
We entered this relationship aware that we were very different.I am a Gemini, quicksilvery, Mercurial and you are so obviously a Capricorn, restrictive, Saturnine. I feel so tied down and long for freedom. I want to share, be open, reveal all that I am: the dark cobwebby corners, not just an impish grin. You won't let me in, I meet so much opposition...
Lately, have you noticed? I've been lying to you. What else can a cloistered kept woman do? You're constantly checking up on me. It's been a month and you just keep calling and calling and calling. You're calling from three different numbers trying to trick me into answering but I know it's you.
8888 4600: that's you.
Private number: that's you.
0423 295 029: the most slippery one of all, I know that's you on the job network's work mobile.
Haven't you heard of caller ID? I'm out living my life.
Your obsessive attention seeking is so trying. You're like a child always trying to get a reaction out of me.
Do you remember that time I was sick, and I rang up to tell you and that I had a medical certificate and as a precautionary remedial measure, you cut me off?
Do you remember that you called every single one of my employers over the past seven years and you made me feel like a small piece of dole bludging dirt underneath the government's shoe?
Do you remember that time that you called one of my employers, a charity, to check up on me and I answered the phone and you were so sheepish and I sent you hate mail & your employee quit?
And do you remember when I couldn't supply several months of dates that I worked at my minimum wage job so you cut me off & I sat on the steps and sobbed after waiting for five hours. And a man who'd also been cut off because his daughter turned six, came and sat next to me on the steps and helped me fill out my form?
Do you remember that I stood outside Centrelink and stamped people's healthcare cards with the words "the holder of this card is a valued member of the community"?
Do you remember the time that I offered to re-design your promotional youth allowance material free of charge because it looked like it had been designed in Paint?
Do you remember that time that I sat in the waiting room and had a picnic? The look on people's faces…
And so this is it. I just can't do it. We are worlds apart. It's hard but we're better off without each other.
No, there's no-one else. I won't answer the phone. I'll RTS your mail. Please don't contact me. I'll never forget you.

Monday, 3 November 2008


Bethany made a special guest appearance in her friend Zak's final year performance assessment at Victoria University last week. Whilst he sat and played in a pool of honey, she sat in a pool of vegetable oil rubbing herself and swallowing vast quantities attempting to vomit. Here is the blurb from the handout:

"A short performance which looks at the relationship between energy transformation within the body and energy transition within the global/societal body, from fossil fuel to sunlight."

Time lapse: One frame per second

Bethany fasted the entire day to preserve the aesthetic of the vomit. She swallowed at least five big mouthfuls, her gag reflex didn't kick in & she felt terribly ill. Apparently you need a whole lotta stuff in your tummy to spew. After the performance she drank a big glass of water and had the second most interesting vomit of her life as she watched the oil and water separate as it swirled down a sink basin.

Picnicking yesterday in Ben Cairn, the artist commented that the ordeal had left her with "soft skin and easy bowel movements".