On Australia Day artist Van Thanh Rudd (also known as Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s nephew) was fined by police after donning a Ku Klux Klan hood for an anti-racism protest outside the Australian Open tennis tournament. Rudd is known for making large public statements with his artwork. The ABC reports his past work has included a painting which was banned by Melbourne City Council (“depicting Ronald McDonald running with the Olympic torch past a burning monk”), various excursions into graffiti art and a $1.2 billion-‘Used Car from Afghanistan’ — a piece “containing a small piece of an Afghan civilian car destroyed by an International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) missile in southern Afghanistan.”
Here, Rudd explains his most recent public statement to Crikey:
On Australia Day myself and Sam King, members of the Revolutionary Socialist Party, wanted to make a creative protest against racism in Australia — in particular the large number of attacks against Indian nationals and the poor treatment of Tamil asylum seekers.
We felt that Australia Day/Invasion Day would be most appropriate — the day that Australians are meant to stand proud, whereas in reality, it commemorates the 222nd year of the genocide of Australia’s Aboriginal people.
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We chose the Australian Open tennis as the prime venue for this action as we felt that many Australian and International audiences would be focused upon it. We were aware that security would be very tight.
The major inspiration for the KKK costumes came from controversial cartoon that was recently published in the Indian media. We wanted to show that many Australians reject the Australian Government’s stance on racism. We put the logos ‘Racism – Product of Australia’ on the front and back of our costumes and held banners saying ‘No Racist Attacks on Indians’ and ‘Let the Refugees In’.
We started the creative action near Federation Square and walked at medium pace along the Yarra to the main entrance of Rod Laver Arena. We had Revolutionary Socialist Party member Roberto Jorquera taking video footage right from the start. We also had colleague Adam Broinowski with a video camera waiting at the entrance to the Rod Laver Arena.
Reactions from the public were hard to decipher although I noticed many smiles and some recognition of the satirical nature of the protest.
Once we reached the main entrance of Rod Laver Arena, security obviously knew we were coming. They tried to talk us out of walking around the grass patch where many tennis fans were situated. In what seemed like about 3 to 5 minutes, the police arrived to escort us off the property for conducting ‘offensive behaviour’. We tried to stand our ground as the police threatened arrest if we didn’t move off the premises.
Before long a police car arrived and we were bundled in and taken away and dumped at the corner of Elizabeth and Flinders St. We were each issued with a $230 fine for “inciting riotous behavour” (?) and warned that we would be “detained again” if we were to continue wearing the costumes.
Overall, we felt that the action was a success — certainly in terms of bringing attention to the issue of racism in Australia.