Friday, March 13, 2009

Dear friends,
please find below a copy of a recent Electronic Intifada article about the political art work of Van Thanh Rudd, which was censored last week in Melbourne because it criticised the Israeli occupation and the role of Connex in the occupied Palestinian territories.

Van is a member of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign here in Melbourne, so I have also included a copy of the PSC media release issued in support of Van.

For more info on PSC (Melbourne) visit

You can also visit Van's website at:

in solidarity,

Installation criticizing occupation, Veolia causes stir
Adri Nieuwhof, The Electronic Intifada, 12 March 2009

Visual artist Van Thanh Rudd recently created a stir in Melbourne, Australia with his installation "Economy of Movement - A Piece of Palestine." Rudd was invited to exhibit at an art space called the Platform in the group show Resisting Subversion of Subversive Resistance. The Platform is situated directly beneath Melbourne's major Flinders Street train station. Rudd, 35 years old, has won several awards and his work has been shown in Australia since 1993. In 2004, he established an arts movement called The Carriers Project, which involves carrying artwork on foot through public and private spaces of major cities to expose challenging artwork to mass audiences. Although Rudd has declined to talk to the media about his latest artwork, he commented on his installation to The Electronic Intifada.

When asked what inspired him to create "Economy of Movement - A Piece of Palestine," Rudd replied that "As Melbourne's city rail network is operated by Connex [a subsidiary of the French company Veolia], I thought it would be a great opportunity to make artwork that would clearly outline Veolia's illegal operations on occupied Palestinian territory."

He added, "I am a member of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, and have taken part in many street protests against Israel's occupation of Palestine over the last few years. It is not very often that a public space is available to political art, so I really embraced this opportunity. I was very careful and strategic about how I would make this piece of art.

The economy of movement - a piece of Palestine by Van Thanh Rudd (2009)

Rudd decided to make a museum-style piece that displayed upon a glass plinth, a rock from occupied East Jerusalem. A panel hanging behind it reads: "The stone exhibited is from East Jerusalem (Occupied Palestinian Territory). It was thrown at an Israeli Defense Force (IDF) tank by a Palestinian youth." Another panel to the right reads: "IDF tanks are protecting French companies Veolia (Connex) and Alstom as they conduct illegal [under international law] operations on Occupied Palestinian Territory."

Regarding the symbolism and imagery of his work, Rudd explained, "I wanted to show through this symbolism of the stone that there is resistance to oppression felt by many Palestinians and the means they have to do this is very limited. I also wanted to show generally, how poor Palestinian people are due to economic blockades imposed by the state of Israel. It was also very important to me to use the colors blue and white. The information panels ... are dominated by the color blue and the text is written in white. I wanted the blue to appear like sky and freedom to humanity, but when white is added it symbolizes the Israeli state flag and oppression. The colors also happen to resemble Connex Melbourne's advertising material."

Popular Resistance by Van Thanh Rudd (2008)

Ode to Liberation - via Team Hawthorn by Van Thanh Rudd (2008)
[Hawthorn are a Melbourne based Australian Rules Football team]

Immediately after Rudd's artwork was displayed at the Platform, there were complaints by Veolia-owned Connex, the public, and a Jewish group. The artwork was covered up the following day. Connex threatened to sue the Platform, not for the actual content of the artwork, but because the artist supposedly used "their" blue and white colors, and the typeface used in the company's promotional material. However, after receiving legal advice, the Platform decided to unveil the art again at the official launch of the exhibition on 6 March. The City of Melbourne's Protocol on Artworks panel saw no problem to reinstall the art, because the work was consistent with the principle of freedom of speech.

Rudd's next major group exhibition is called NAM BANG! and will be shown in Sydney. He will exhibit along with artists from other countries, including the US, France and Vietnam. Rudd explained that "The exhibition is meant to be about the perspectives of the Vietnam/US war from the second generation -- I am half Vietnamese. In this, I will be exhibiting another piece on the Israel occupation, questioning who the terrorists really are and the role the US and the West have in supporting suppression of real democracy."

The controversy surrounding Rudd's exhibited art has been a boost to the Australian Veolia campaign. It has garnered additional attention because Rudd is a nephew of Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. In the coming months Palestine solidarity organizations will demand that state governments in Australia "dump their contracts" with Connex and Veolia, because of the company's involvement in the illegal light rail project in Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem. As for Veolia, the Australian daily newspaper The Age reported that "Connex maintains the East Jerusalem project is legal." However, a growing international compaign is challenging this assertion through lawsuits, divestment and now art.

Adri Nieuwhof is a consultant and human rights advocate based in Switzerland.

Media release


For Immediate Release 8 March, 2009

Van Thanh Rudd & the Economy of Movement- a piece of Palestine: Defend the right to artistic expression & freedom of speech!

The Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) in Melbourne unequivocally defends and supports the right of visual artist, Van Thanh Rudd, to freedom of artistic expression and speech.

Van’s work, Economy of Movement – A piece of Palestine, which has been displayed as part of the Resisting Subversion of Subversive Resistance: Propositions towards urban (r)evolution exhibition at Flinders St Station has been subject to censorship this week.

The art work which depicts a rock and includes two informational statements outlining the resistance to Israel’s occupation of East Jerusalem and the role that French companies Alstom and Veolia (whose Australian transport operations operate under the name of Connex) are playing in facilitating the illegal Israeli occupation of East Jerusalem by building illegal settlement infrastructure.

Veolia and Alstom are part of the Citypass consortium which won the 2002 tender project amounting to 500 million Euros. The light rail will service illegal Israeli settlements built on stolen Palestinian land and is a serious breach of international law, in particular article 49 and article 53 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which both Israel and Australia are signatories.

Article 49 states:

“The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies”.

Article 53 states:

“Any destruction by the Occupying Power of real or personal property belonging individually or collectively to private persons, or to the State, or to other public authorities, or to social or cooperative organizations, is prohibited, except where such destruction is rendered absolutely necessary by military operations”.

The transfer of any Israeli civilian population into the Occupied Palestinian Territories, whether it be East Jerusalem, the West Bank or the Gaza Strip, is illegal under international law, as is the forcible confiscation and destruction of Palestinian private property by Israel as an occupying power.

The light rail being built on stolen Palestinian land by Veolia (Connex) and Alstrom will assist with the transfer of the Israeli civilian population into the Palestinian territories occupied by Israel, directly supporting the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from East Jerusalem and its surrounds.

The Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) supports the international campaign for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel ( ). The campaign initiated in 2005 by almost 200 Palestinian civil society organisation calls for the boycotting of Israeli goods, divestment from Israeli companies and institutions and for governments to place sanctions on Israel by breaking military, political, cultural and economic ties until the country abides by international law.

In Australia, Palestine solidarity activists from a coalition of Palestine solidarity organisations, including the Palestine Solidarity Camaign, over the next months will be demanding that various state governments around Australia dump their contracts with Connex.

Palestine Solidarity Campaign also calls on the Australian Rudd government to break all political, economic, cultural and military ties with Israel, until it abides by its international obligations.

Palestine Solidarity Campaign congratulates Van Thanh Rudd for his ongoing support of human rights in both Palestine and elsewhere and applauds the Platform Artists Group for their courageous support of an artist’s freedom of artistic expression and speech.

For more information:



Palestine Solidarity Campaign: who we are ...

PSC is a grassroots, activist based group which does not adhere to any particular ideology and is not affiliated with any political or religious grouping. PSC includes people from a diversity of cultural and political backgrounds, as well as religious affiliations and seeks to collaborate with all groups and individuals who are committed to our goal of ending the Israeli occupation of Palestine and who support justice for the Palestinian people.

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