Juliana Engberg may be regretting using the last minutes of Jon Faine’s radio show
last Friday as a platform to tell her side of the story in her
fight with Melbourne artist Ash Keating (2 June, item 18).
Just before the midday news on local ABC radio in Melbourne, Engberg gave
her version of an incident that occurred outside the Australian Centre for
Contemporary Art, the supposedly uber-cool institution that Engberg runs in
Engberg alleged she was subjected to “harassment” and that she was “pursued
by two quite aggressive men who pointed their weapons of media at me … to the
back of the building where I was by myself in the dark”.
It sounded like gripping stuff but no sooner had Engberg finished telling
her story on the wireless, Crikey started receiving what has become a sizable
body of material contradicting Engberg’s version of events and detailing her own
extraordinary reaction to the incident.
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The incident occurred on the night of 26 June during the opening of a group
exhibition, “The Unquiet World”. Ash Keating took the opportunity to present his own artwork, bringing along
the remnants of a previous exhibition at ACCA by another big-name American,
Kruger’s work included giant text made from vinyl lettering.
This material was thrown into a skip at the end of the Kruger show in late
February. Keating decided to help himself to it. On the night of the confrontation with Engberg, Keating and two
assistants arrived with the vinyl cast-offs. In keeping with previous so-called
art interventions Keating had staged, he intended to cover himself in the vinyl
and to position himself on the footpath outside the gallery to make a statement
about the impact of petrochemical waste on the environment. His assistants were
to record the event using a video camera and a still camera.
In response to Engberg’s radio interview, Crikey has received several
accounts from eyewitnesses who tell a different story. For example, an art student, who withheld her name, sent the following:
Juliana strode up to the artwork, aggressively pulled the
scraps of Barbara Kruger’s work from the ground, while a man filmed
her. There was no pursuing with vengeful relentlessness and no
cornering her. The incident occurred on Sturt Street in front of many
people, in an open space.
Based on accounts from various people to whom we have spoken, Crikey can confirm
that Keating was not even present when Engberg carried the remains of Kruger’s
work to the skip at the rear of the gallery. She was followed by his two
assistants while Keating remained on the footpath. It is also clear that when
Keating’s assistants followed her to the rear of the building, Engberg was in
the company of at least one member of her own staff, and not alone as she has
There is a continuous video recording of the events that occurred at
the rear of the building. Engberg has threatened to sue if it is ever
made public. Engberg has also issued a formal complaint against Keating
in an email sent to the Victorian College of the Arts where Keating is
an honours student.
She also questioned the standard of teaching at the VCA, something that
has not endeared her to VCA staff, who are said to be preparing a
strongly worded response to Engberg’s complaint.