Yvette Watt

Unfair Game: animal abuse and gender in the visual arts.

In June 2017 I was caught up in a furore which broke out over the inclusion of Hermann Nitsch’s 150.action in the 2017 Dark MOFO program, an annual arts festival that is held in Hobart. Nitsch’s “actions”, which he has been undertaking since the early 1960s, involve the slaughtering and tearing apart of animal bodies, copious amounts of animal blood, and participants rolling around in the animals’ carcases and stomping on the entrails. In 150.action a bull and a number of fish would be killed especially for the event. There was much commentary around the hypocriscy of meat-eaters objecting to Nitsch’s work, and as a vegan myself, I could understand this point of view. Why did meat eaters find Nitsch’s work so objectionable?

Nitsch is far from alone as an artist who kills or harms animals in the name of art, and there is increasing public concern raised over the use of animals in this way. Weaving into the discussion my own anti-hunting art event, Duck Lake, this presentation will use Marti Kheel’s 1996 ecofeminist critique of hunting as a framework to argue that there is a comparison to be made between harming or killing animals for art, and for “sport” hunting both in motivation, in respect of public perception, and in terms of the gender bias at play, and that this may explain the public outrage directed at artists such as Nitsch.


Dr Yvette Watt is Studio Head of Painting at School of Creative Arts, UTAS,and Lead Researcher of the CALE Animal Studies Research Group. Yvette was a founding member of the Australasian Animal Studies Association and is a current committee member of Minding Animals International.

 Yvette has been actively involved in animal advocacy since the mid 1980s, and her artwork and academic research is heavily informed by her activism and her interest in the changing nature of human-animal relations. Her research also reflects an interest in the relationship between how nonhuman animals are depicted and what this might have to say about how these animals are thought about and treated. Related to this is an interest in the role that art can play in engaging the viewer with social and/or political issues.