Words: Sebastian Henry-Jones
Gabrielle de Vietri’s artistic practice is collaborative, grounded in a deep engagement with politics and the role of art in social transformation. For example, her 2019 work with collaborator Will Foster, titled Maps of Gratitude, Cones of Silence and Lumps of Coal, takes the form of a sprawling, interactive diagram that traces the connections between Australian arts organisations and the fossil fuels industry. By illustrating the human relationships between art and fossil fuels, the artists reveal the larger structure of the arts as it is in direct relationship with companies responsible for our climate crisis today, and the financial and social dependencies that these two industries have to one another. As a founding member of The Artists Committee – a group of artists making public work around the intersection of art, money, politics and culture – de Vietri has staged unsanctioned, performative interventions at the National Gallery of Victoria and Melbourne’s Parliament House, while her 2018 work ARTSLOG, allowed Australian artists to catalogue their experiences along lines of pay, working conditions and institutional standards.
It came as little surprise when de Vietri became the Mayor of her local council, the City of Yarra. An entry into local politics seemed a natural progression for someone who understands her practice as a way by which to publicly embody the values she wishes to see enshrined in society.
Early this year she announced that she would be running for state parliament as a Greens candidate for the Victorian electoral district of Richmond. In late November, she was officially elected to the lower house of Victoria’s Parliament. On her agenda is the protection of public land and green space, responding to the climate crisis in Australia by investing in sustainable energy, affordable housing and First Nations justice. As an artist who has always sought to understand the arts sector as inextricably connected to other social, economic and political structures, de Vietri continues to advocate for the things she believes in. Her example as both an artist and politician is one that more working in the arts could learn from.
Featured image: Artists Committee, Weeping Woman 2017. Photo: Tatjana Plitt. Courtesy: Gabrielle de Vietri.
This article was originally published in Art Collector issue 103, January-March 2023.