The German delegates.
Image: Bennett Miller
Source: Bennett Miller
Perth-based artist Bennett Miller has been camping out in a rugged West- Melbourne warehouse for six weeks constructing his Next Wave Festival installation, Dachshund U.N. He’s building a timber model of a United Nations meeting room to dachshund-scale because in Bennett’s performance piece, the 47 delegates, speakers and interpreters of the UN Human Rights Committee are represented by live sausage dogs.
For this year’s festival theme – “No risk too great’ – the dachshund is the perfect medium. “There’s an inherent risk in the idea of the UN. What I’m doing is similar but on a smaller scale.” Bennett’s playful artworks often feature animals cast in human roles and he’s used dachshunds before, but never so many at once.
Local dachshund owners have embraced the project enthusiastically. They will participate in the three performances with their dogs, albeit concealed beneath the wooden installation that will sit on the Melbourne Museum plaza. Says Bennett, “it’s a dream spot for me to put the work to expose it to people who aren’t necessarily looking for art projects.” The backdrop of the Royal Exhibition Building – the site of Australia’s first parliament – also emphasises the contrast between officious, serious themes of politics and diplomacy and the playful absurdity of dachshunds en masse.
“They’re my favourite dogs, mainly because they make me laugh,” says Bennett, who has a dachshund called Otto waiting for him back home in Perth. “They’re restricted in their movement but they always look really proud, and I like watching how they persevere, which is good for this project as well. They also have racial diversity – long, short and wire haired, red, black and tan and dappled– so there’s the potential to have a breakdown similar to the UN.”
Exactly how the canine stars will respond to their debut in the performance art world is, as Bennett says, “a big unknown. It’s meant to go wrong a little bit, like the UN often does. But, equally, it’s important to try and make it happen.”
Dachshund U.N. is the third Next Wave Festival project that has been partnered by Melbourne Museum and is also supported by the Western Australian Department of Culture and the Arts, Australia Council for the Arts and the Keir Foundation. Performances will be held from 2 – 3pm on 15, 22 and 29 May 2010. The sculpture will remain on site throughout the Festival.
UPDATE: Watch the video of the performance