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20754Can Art Go Too Far?

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  • upcnews@ymail.com
    May 11, 2013
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      United Poultry Concerns - http://www.UPC-online.org/
      11 May 2013

      Can art go too far?

      Please listen and COMMENT on this audio piece on CBC Radio: The Current

      "Everyone became a critic at Alberta's College of Art and Design when a student
      killed a chicken as part of an art project. But the most powerful critic was the
      school -- and it swung the axe. Was it performance art or an act of

      Mary Britton Clouse, Executive Director of Chicken Run Rescue and Justice for
      Animals Arts Guild, posted the following comment yesterday after listening to
      this radio broadcast featuring a freelance art critic and an artist who encases
      slaughterhouse blood in Plexiglas. Both defended the killing of a chicken by a
      student at the Alberta College of Art and Design on August 18. A third artist
      who spoke near the end of the program challenged their callousness toward the
      chicken and their flippant attitude about art.

      "Art Should Go Farther" by Mary Britton Clouse

      Art is about ideas. Animals are not ideas. They are as real as we are. Their
      suffering and deprivation are psychologically and biologically indisputable, in
      the present, and mean the world to each individual animal. No act of
      self-expression is worth the life or liberty of another.

      Self-censorship is exercised by artists every moment of every day. The species
      used in violent art almost always conveniently fall into categories of animals
      afforded the least, or no, legal protection and consideration: animals used for
      food or experimentation, and "pests." Violence toward another human being would
      never be mistaken for free expression, and neither should this.

      The opinion of art critic Blake Gopnik and artist Jordan Eagles that the killing
      of THIS chicken (as opposed to A chicken) is not a problem, but that destruction
      of inanimate property in the context of an upcoming Hirschorn exhibit is
      worrisome violence, defies the imagination.

      The lack of critical thinking on the part of the student who committed the act,
      the students who failed to stop him, and the teacher's apparent approval of it,
      are stunning. What is being defended is deeply ordinary, run-of-the-mill,
      unremarkable, unexceptional, average, mediocre, pedestrian, prosaic, lackluster,
      dull, bland, uninteresting, mundane; hackneyed, trite, banal, clichéd,
      predictable, stale, tired and unoriginal. Show me something new and farsighted
      beyond the hole humanity has dug for itself.

      Which, if any, of the following exhibits involving animals would Gopnik and
      Eagles not have approved of on ethical grounds, and if there are any, for what

      - live fish displayed in a blender with a fully operational power switch
      available to museum guests. Trapholt Art Museum in Denmark, 2000.

      - live chickens caged and tacked on a wall at the Minneapolis Institute of Art,
      2000. (No Live Animals Policy instated, 2001.)

      - video tape of a cat tortured to death to be exhibited at a gallery in Toronto,
      2001. (Exhibit cancelled.)

      - chicken beheaded in an art class at the University of California, Berkeley,

      - chickens, mice, cats and rabbits from shelters decapitated and photographed
      within moments of their death in Sweden, 2004.

      - predator and prey species housed together at the Walker Art Center in
      Minneapolis, 2005. (No Live Animals Policy instated, 2006.)

      - starving street dog chained in a gallery with food just out of reach until he
      dies in Managua, Nicaragua, 2007.

      - video of a horse, a pig, a goat, an ox, a deer and a sheep bludgeoned to death
      at the San Francisco Art Institute, 2008. Exhibit canceled. Humanitarian Art
      Ordinance, passed in March 2009.

      - a proposed exhibit of chickens confined in a public space, subjected to the
      stress of constant relocation, throats slit in a public ceremony, and eaten in
      Lawrence, Kansas, 2012. NOTE: Lawrence's city attorney pulled the plug on this
      proposed exhibit on the basis that it violated animal cruelty statutes and the
      exhibit instead became a meaningful discussion about the value of THESE
      chickens' lives.

      The fact that Gopnik and Eagles are utterly indifferent to suffering and death,
      but are ready to turn this student butchery of a chicken for "art" into a
      campaign about the tenure rights of the instructor, Gordon Ferguson, who was
      fired by the Alberta College of Art and Design for his role in the violent
      “performance,” speaks volumes about the self-serving closed society that art
      marketing has become. Given the fierce competition for increasingly scarce arts
      funding, there exists an irresistible incentive for outrageous acts to be
      rewarded for being close to the limit of conventional, but "legal,"

      An artist must have the right to express, verbally or non-verbally, an abstract
      idea. Yes. Does this right trump the bodily integrity of another living being?
      No. To paraphrase: one's right ends at the other's nose. Art institutions must
      adopt "No Live Animals" policies or become irrelevant. Animal experimentation
      requires the oversight of Institutional Animal Care and Use Committees (shams
      that they are) before animals can be requisitioned. Why should self-proclaimed
      artists get a free ride (and the fringe benefits of notoriety) with no
      responsibility for their actions?

      The artist's choice of subject/performance for shock value reflects a cynical
      disrespect for intellectual integrity.

      The line that cannot be defended is to place the importance of art above the
      real, palpable interests of THIS chicken. This was her only life. If the world
      never sees any more art, it will survive. The suffering of a living creature is
      real and in the present, and her life meant the world to THIS chicken.

      It was painful to listen to the myopic ramblings between Gopnik and Eagles, but
      I am extremely grateful for the introduction to artist Joe Zammit-Lucia who
      articulated respect for both artistic integrity and for THIS chicken. Now I have
      something new and farsighted to look forward to seeing.

      Mary Britton Clouse
      Justice for Animals Arts Guild - http://www.brittonclouse.com/jaag
      Chicken Run Rescue - http://www.chickenrunrescue.org/

      For more information about the Calgary, Alberta chicken-killing-for-"art"
      episode on Thursday, April 18, see:

      United Poultry Concerns is a nonprofit organization that promotes
      the compassionate and respectful treatment of domestic fowl.
      Don't just switch from beef to chicken. Go Vegan.
      http://www.UPC-online.org/ http://www.twitter.com/upcnews

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