Testing Democracy is a participatory artwork that questions the integrity of our democracy and tests whether the voice of Australian citizens has the ability to reach senior officials and have their complaints heard.
"I want people to engage in the democracy we have, lets confirm, affirm or otherwise what is democracy. The crown has to respond to you in writing in the next 14 days. There should be nothing to fear from a mere letter, we have the right to ask this question, any question, and we are entitled to a response, an official response."—Richard Bell, 2020
Trust in government is at an all time low in Australia—with many of us feeling disempowered, ignored by our elected leaders, and ultimately disengaged. This artistic process seeks to motivate a social body to enact their legislated powers and democratic responsibility of holding our leaders to account. Richard Bell encourages us to take this letter and send it under your name. Government has a mandate to protect its citizens, but also to listen to them—it is Bell’s hope that we take this opportunity to make our voices heard.
Richard will be writing letters from IMA Belltower 10am–12pm on Saturday 5 December for IMA Open Day. Please join him and add your voice to the debate.
Richard Bell, Testing Democracy, 2020, letter posted to the Federal Education Minister.
Richard Bell lives and works in Brisbane, Australia. He works across a variety of media including painting, installation, performance and video. One of Australia’s most significant artists, Bell’s work explores the complex artistic and political problems of Western, colonial and Indigenous art production. He grew out of a generation of Aboriginal activists and has remained committed to the politics of Aboriginal emancipation and self-determination.
In 2003 he was the recipient of the Telstra National Aboriginal Art Award, establishing him as an important Australian artist. Bell is represented in most major National and State collections, and has exhibited in a number of solo exhibitions at important institutions in Australia and America. In 2013 he was included in the National Gallery of Canada’s largest show of International Indigenous art, Sakàhan: International Indigenous Art, and at the Fifth Moscow Biennale of Contemporary Art. In 2014, Bell’s solo exhibition Embassy opened at the Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts, Perth. In 2015, Bell was a finalist in the Archibald Prize and later in the year will present new work as part of Performa 15 in New York City. Since 2013 the Embassy project has been staged in cities across Australia and internationally and an edition was acquired by MCA/TATE in 2017.