Unwelcome guests: Hospitality, asylum seekers and art at the 19th Biennale of Sydney | Intellect Skip to content
Volume 4, Issue 2
  • ISSN: 2042-7913
  • E-ISSN: 2042-7921



This article gives the background to the controversy around the 19th Biennale of Sydney as a way of discussing issues of hospitality and the unwelcome guest. Specifically, we contrast the figure of the asylum seeker as the unwelcome guest in Australia with the activists and artists who co-opted and reframed the Biennale. Our account draws from our mutual experiences as: a refugee advocate who was the guest in the original artist’s space; and a New Zealand artist invited to the festival. The article first offers a background to the Biennale, Transfield and the controversy. We then reproduce ‘The animals and the rulers’, Murdoch’s text that was included in Shannon’s portion of the exhibition at the Art Gallery of New South Wales. We will then go into more depth on the conceptual and methodological thinking behind the text. Finally, Shannon reflects on the experience of being a foreign guest caught up in the controversy and trying to respond in a highly charged environment.


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  • Article Type: Article
Keyword(s): Australian; boycott; festival; hospitality; immigration; refugee; resistance
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