19 April 2008

If I was Starving Would You Save Me?

I'm pretty surprised at the level of attention Guillermo Vargas Habakkuk's art piece is getting. I honestly don't see a lot of avant-garde contemporary art get a lot of attention on facebook.
The basic outrage is that this piece involved an emaciated stray dog tied to a portion of the gallery. Some reports say that the dog was not fed or given water, others say that it was just given water. The exact circumstances seem a little murky. Their is controversy as to whether the dog is in fact dead.
For those of you who don't know people are filling out a petition to keep the artist from showing at the Biennial. He plans to recreate the art piece.
I personally am not interested in creating this kind of work. Nor can I completely defend it. My first reaction be very horrified. And I'm pretty into avant-garde art. Lots of weird stuff.I know that animals will suffer regardless but it still does not sit right. Still, I'm interested in seeing how this will turn out. But what is most interesting to me that people would go to a pristine art gallery and see a sick thin dog in a corner and not be moved to do anything. Are we that complacent? Are we afraid of getting in trouble? Is an art gallery so superior that everyone was too afraid to cause a ruckus? I don't know.
Is this dog the modern day equivalent to Josef Beuy's I like America and America Likes Me? In that piece Beuys lived and communicated with a coyote for three days in a studio. Beuys is one of my favorite artists of all time. Most of the work people know him from was performative. They are referred to as Actions.
From the tate modern website:
Beuys’s felt blankets, walking stick and gloves became sculptural props throughout the Action. In addition, fifty new copies of the Wall Street Journal were introduced each day, which the coyote acknowledged by urinating on them. Beuys regularly performed the same series of actions with his eyes continuously fixed on the coyote. At other times he would rest or gather the felt around him to suggest the figure of a shepherd with his crook. The coyote’s behaviour shifted throughout the three days, becoming cautious, detached, aggressive and sometimes companionable. At the end of the Action, Beuys was again wrapped in felt and returned to the airport.
Whereas Beuys act was private and spiritual, this new piece is very public and gratuitous. But we live in gratuitous Jeff Koons/Damien Hirst/Richard Prince/Murakami times don't we? And of course the coyote was not hurt or damaged in any way while the stray dog was clearly sick to begin with.

I'll be following this one.

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