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Anything To Say? sculptures for freedom of expression, truth and a free press in Melbourne 7 & 8 March.

March 11, 2023 IN WIP
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Below are photos from the Anything To Say? sculpture installation at Queensbridge Square, Southbank. It was launched on Tuesday 7th March with an evening event hosted by PEN’s Writers In Prison co-coordinator Dr Josephine Scicluna and an impressive set of speakers including PEN Melbourne President Christine McKenzie who explained the PEN Empty Chair concept that is similar to that of ATS.


The other speakers at the launch were:


Julian Assange’s father John Shipton

Dean Yates, the Reuters bureau chief in Baghdad at the time of the infamous Collateral Murders

David McBride, the Afghan war crimes whistleblower

Stephen Kenny, Julian Assange’s Australian solicitor

Davide Dormino, the sculptor who created ATS;

Greens MCC Cr. Dr. Olivia Ball;

and Janet Galpin, Boon Wurrung Foundation Elder who performed an Acknowledgement of Country.


The speeches were not only informative but full of passion and emotion. They launched the artwork, asked its question “Anything To Say?”, and their courage was infectious for us all, giving us further determination and information to stand up for Julian, David McBride and all those who suffer for standing for truth and transparency.


Melbournians found a lot to say about the visiting sculpture. Davide Dormino’s brilliant artwork brought out a diversity of reactions from people, from the moment it was assembled until the moment it sadly left. In addition to demonstrating the knowledge and empathy that most people felt about Julian Assange, Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowdon, the spontaneous human responses entertained those of us who were continually there for the 2 days. Tears of joy and sadness, anger at the mistreatment of the three, laughter as they tried to guess if the statues were real people in metallic costumes, comments on the state of politics and the world, stories of their own experiences from other parts of the world…and it just went on. Those who didn’t know much about Julian Assange found out a lot about the person he is and the stand he has taken to galvanise activists around the world in a stance against hegemony and manipulation of truth. Many pledged to contact their MPs to urge them to join the Parliamentarian Friends of Julian Assange group.

On Wednesday the 8th,  PEN Melbourne led International Women’s Day activities to acknowledge imprisoned & harassed Iranian women writers Mahvash Sabet, poet; Nasrin Sotoudeh, human rights lawyer; Aida Amidi, poet; and Narges Mohammadi, and the call “Woman Life Freedom.”

This Anything To Say event was jointly organised by PEN Melbourne’s Writers For Peace and Melbourne4Assange, and as organisers, we (Con Pakavakis, Raine Sinclair and Jodie Harrison) echo the words of Greens MCC Cr Dr Olivia Ball who wrote to us after the ATS launch:


“My sincere congratulations to you all for a wonderful event. I feel so grateful and energised to have been there, even though it was incredibly tough and heartbreaking.

I know it takes a huge amount of work to mount something like this — I can scarcely imagine, really, given its interstate and international dimensions — and to have it run so smoothly and professionally is a credit to all involved…

Maybe you did, like me, have a glimmer of hope that Julian would be out by now. But we must keep going and, like Chelsea who suffered so terribly for long years, one day Julian will enjoy the freedom he deserves.”

We thank Cr Dr Olivia Ball and Cr Jamal Hakim for their tremendous support and especially for their moving a successful motion passed by Melbourne City Council in support of Julian Assange calling for his immediate release and supporting the ATS event in Melbourne.

A huge thank you to Davide and Patrick, you came from Europe to share this provocative artwork and we thank you from our hearts, it was a joy and privilege to meet you.

A special thank you too to musicians Terry Cole and the Footscray Gypsy Orchestra, and Kevin Samson.

And of course a special thank you to our hands-on grass roots team led by Mills, Graeme, Chris, Bernadette, Lisa, Julie and supporters from Melbourne 4Assange, PEN Melbourne and the NO AUKUS coalition of IPAN, and everyone who attended, taking the stand on the empty chair and having a say.


Lastly, a reminder of two coming events:


1 A Peace Rally “A Call For Peace – Truth Not War” is on Saturday 18th March, 1pm at the State Library, for the 20th Anniversary of the US Led invasion of IRAQ and to hear a number of speakers about the need to stop the AUKUS agreement and nuclear submarine purchases, and the pressing need to Free Julian Assange.

This will include a march to Treasury Gardens to hear:

Louise Bennet, Dean Yates, Peter Whish-Wilson and David McBride.


2 On Wednesday 22nd March, 6.45 pm at the Nova Cinema: the Victorian Premiere of the latest documentary The Road To War by Oscar nominee, filmmaker David Bradbury, followed by a discussion with special guests.

You can watch a short trailer of this important and timely film:




Anything To Say? is a life size bronze sculpture, portraying three figures each one standing on a chair. The fourth chair is empty because it is ‘our’ chair.

The empty chair is for us to stand on to express ourselves, or simply to stand alongside Edward Snowden, Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning, who had the courage to say no to the intrusion of global surveillance, and to the lies that lead to war.
The idea was developed by Charles Glass, author, journalist and broadcaster. It was brought to life by artist Davide Dormino who believes in the power of Public Art.

Since its unveiling in Alexanderplatz, Berlin in 2015 it has been installed at cultural centres around Europe including the Cologne Chatedral, Koln; Place Georges-Pompidou, Paris; the International Journalism Festival, Perugia; and is soon to feature in Melbourne’s Arts Precinct at the Queensbridge Square, Southbank, before being installed in Sydney and Canberra.

The exhibition is being organised by:

OFFICIAL START   Tuesday 7 March,  Queensbridge Square, Southbank

5pm  – warm up entertainment – stilt-walkers, jugglers, street performers 

6pm Launch event program: 

MC: Dr Jo Scicluna, PEN Melb Writers in Prison Committee

Welcome to Country Smoking Ceremony

Councillor Dr Olivia Ball – City of Melbourne

Davide Dormino – Artist

Christine McKenzie – PEN Melb President

David McBride – Whistleblower, Afghanistan

Stephen Kenny – Julian Assange Australian solicitor

Dean Yates – former Reuters Bureau Chief, Baghdad Iraq

  • Collateral Murder video on a giant LED screen

John Shipton

Roger Waters  (video): Wish You Were Here

  • Video-streamed messages: Ed Snowden, Stella Assange (tbc)

Wednesday, 8 March, 8am – 8pm

Speak up

Have your say and have it live-streamed to social media.

Come to see invited celebrities, the arts community and human rights groups have a say, or have a say yourself.

and… It’s International Women’s Day

Join PEN Melb. at 1 pm & 6pm to acknowledge imprisoned & harassed Iranian women writers Mahvash Sabet, poet; Nasrin Sotoudeh, human rights lawyer; Aida Amidi, poet; and Narges Mohammadi, and the call “Woman Life Freedom.”

Groups can bring their own chairs, or just stand together in formation. Say it your way.






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People say that (writers) are pretty powerless: we don’t have an army, we don’t have a bureaucracy. But if that were true, then why would writers be arrested?... Because the spoken word is powerful.

— John Ralston Saul on the work of PEN International