Volume I, Number 2, Winter 2005

ANIMAL ABUSE AS ART

"A Danish Art Museum was recently acquitted of cruelty when they let patrons grind up goldfish in a blender."

This was a recent news story, which along with seeing Damien Hirst's mutilated animals in formaldehyde filled boxes, prompted me to include this collection of similar "Animal Abuse as Art" stories.

The following are snippets from recent "News of the Weird" by Chuck Shepard. He collects news items from around the world. Many of the items he has published in his syndicated column are about art, usually under the heading of Great Art!

"Toronto artist, Istavan Kantor, won one of the country's most prestigious awards in March even though he (called "Canada's leading shock artist" by the New York Times) is best known for bloody performance art scenes, such as wearing the dripping carcasses of cats as a hat and posing himself in various positions to allow blood to drip from body apertures in a series that one critic said was a tribute to blood as 'the spurting, contagious prima material of life.'"

"In recent New York City art auctions, according to a May report in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Tom Friedman's 'Untitled' (a Styrofoam cup of evaporated-coffee stains pinned to a piece of wood along with a ladybug) went for $30,000."

"News of the Weird has reported on scientists who borrow the jellyfish's 'green protein' for medically productive genetic modifications, but Chicago artist Eduardo Kac created controversy in September by proposing to create embryos with the jellyfish's green-light producing gene just to make visually appealing organisms, such as a glowing rabbit. (Kac's major work so far is Genesis, a sentence from the Old Testament, translated into Morse Code, transposed onto DNA, inserted into fluorescent bacteria, and lit up when anyone accesses the piece on Kac's web site."

"British shock artist Damien Hirst, chronicled several times in News of the Weird (e.g., skinned dead cattle in copulating positions), told The Guardian newspaper in June that he had discovered a new refinement after giving up drinking. Said Hirst: 'I can drink, I can take drugs, and I can produce art. But the art starts looking stupid.' Once he said he wanted to cover a pig in vibrators to look like a hedgehog and call it Pork-u-Pine. His new installation set for London in the fall features Jesus and the apostles as 13 Ping-Pong balls bobbing on fountains of red wine, and another piece on the disciples features several pickled bull's heads."

"Sculptor-painter Antonio Becerra's government-funded "oils on Dogs" exhibition opened in Santiago, Chile, in August, consisting of the artist's paintings (e.g., Pope John Paul and a cross, blue and orange butterflies) on the embalmed cadavers of a dozen roadkill dogs Becerra had found on the city's streets. Becerra called the work a reflection of societies violence and cruelty, but animal rights activists were appalled at his lack of respect for the dogs."

In September, art student Nathan Banks, 22 (of New York's Purchase College), painted randomly chosen words on about 60 meandering cows in order to see if they would inadvertently line up to form poetry. At about the same time, in England, writer Valerie Laws, 48, did the same thing with sheep (except she chose the words of only one poem, to see if the sheep could form another poem). An arts council granted Ms Laws about $3,400 for her project, which she said would break down the boundaries between 'literature' and 'quantum mechanics.'"

"The Ukraine-born Sweden-based artist Nathalia Edenmont defended her work against animal-rights protesters in December by claiming a higher virtue in killing animals if she does it to make an artistic point. Her latest artistic points (according to the owner of the Stockholm gallery exhibition Edenmont's work): Her photo of a hand with dead mice stuck on each finger represents the five stars of the former Soviet Union, which Edenmont believes was responsible for her mother's murder, and a photo of several dead mice all pointing in the same direction represents the 'cowardice' of Swedish society. (Sydney Morning Herald-AFP, December)."

After reading the previous news items, I began to wonder what is our art world coming to? Is it now catering to our basest instincts as opposed to centuries of trying to enlighten humanity?

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