On March 8, London-based artist Oscar Murillo was detained in Sydney, Australia on his way to the city’s biennale. According to Art News, Murillo was held in a detention cell for two days while his identity was confirmed before being deported to Singapore. From there, he made his way through Barcelona and Madrid, back to his birthplace of Bogota, Columbia to gain legal access back to the United Kingdom.
This ordeal occurred after Murillo flushed his British passport down an airplane toilet just four hours before landing in Sydney. The New York Times reported that Murillo did not intend this to be an act of protest, but it became one after he stated his act “was a way of challenging the conditions in which I have the privilege of moving through the world, as a citizen.”(1) Art Review reported that Murillo’s idea came from the notion that his work was not sufficient for the Sydney Biennale.(2) He wanted to be more present in the world as an artist instead of having viewers simply look at his art. Murillo needed a “valid and open conversation that transpasses [sic] the current still-dominant colonial situation in which we still live in – from a Western context, the West is a salivating penis, you know, pretty much ready to penetrate the rest of the world, as it has been for 500 years or more.” (2)
Murillo attended Art Basel Hong Kong later in March, where he was reportedly seen furiously sketching in his notebook with another artist at the Mandarin Oriental hotel. This book, according to Art News, is “a nod to his recent country-hopping” and is to be called Room Service.(3)