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March 11th, 2008

the censorship of Guillermo Habacuc Vargas @ 10:46 am

Has anyone here heard about this?


navidad the dog.jpg

am i crazy?
or are thousands of hungry (ignored) dogs dying every day around the world?
aren't thousands of hungry (ignored) humans dying every day around the world?
aren't billions of people killing billions of animals every day for a Big Mac?

i'd like to say i'm surprised to see puritan middle americans in costa rica
but i know that most people have never understood "Art"
and choose to only enjoy art when it pleases their eye...

there are many things the world does not want to look at
but because it's some starving dog (dog's are cute!) instead of some fat drunk old homeless man
everyone get's all bent out of shape..

i've already left a comment on this guy's blog
and written both of his gallery's addresses asking to continue to support the artist
is there a way to make an Anti-Petition?

i would just reprint the gallery addresses here
but then i would just be facilitating decisions made in ignorant sloth

if you want to get involved in the issue
go to the link and click around
read what you can (it's mostly in spanish, but there is enough english through the pages to understand what is being said)

and DO something
or ignore it.
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Date:March 11th, 2008 03:59 pm (UTC)

The value of horrifying art

Thanks for bringing this to our attention.

This is a VERY thorny issue. On the one hand, this particular work is horribly cruel, unforgiving, "inhumane". But on the other hand, the artist does raise a valid point ... this kind of thing happens every day in real life. People are horribly cruel, unforgiving, and "inhumane" all the damn time, both to each other and to other animals. Though I find the treatment of the dog deplorable, I also often find the behavior of our species to be BAD NEWS in general. I can't fault the artist for pointing out the obvious. He shouldn't be censored. Rather, his actions should be carefully examined. He could have spent his time, money, and resources in "saving" the dog, but he chose not to. People on their way to that gallery probably passed several starving dogs, possibly even some starving people, and did yet they nothing.

It reminds me of a volatile discussion my group had in grad school ... about perceiving the events of September 11th as "a work of art" or "an artistic gesture". I was surprised at the venom that people spat at each other over it. People would stand up and scream about violence and hatred and bloodshed, without considering the real center of the argument ... does a politically motivated action that kills thousands and instantly changes the world count as a work of "art"? Just earlier in that same class, we had been amicably discussing Duchamp's position on what could possibly constitute a "work of art". Few perceived the irony of their indignation.

Art is not the same thing as beauty. Art does not necessarily have to be pretty and decorative and good-hearted. Art can be evil, cruel, dangerous, messy, ugly, and emotionally damaging. Though this may qualify as "evil" art, it is art nonetheless ... no less than bullfighting, no less than making a spectacularly presented meal of a lobster that has been boiled alive, no less than a perfectly tailored fur coat. Maybe people should spend more time pouring their energy into animal shelters and soup kitchens, and less time trying to censor artists.

Personally, I'd rather look at Michelangelo's "Pietà" than witness the final sufferings of a dying animal. But that doesn't mean that I don't consider the artist's gesture to be meaningful and important. It's a valuable discussion to have. And it's better to openly discuss a provocative action like this than to try and prevent the artist's work from being seen in the future. If it made people stop and consider for a while the harsh realities of life, then perhaps it has value as a work. Was the dog's suffering in vain? Was he "sacrificed" for art ... as opposed to sport or food? It's not much different than the suffering of a battery chicken, the suffering of an ignored pregnant refugee, the suffering of a homeless child, the suffering of a circus elephant. Maybe those issues should be addressed before people protest artworks that include real suffering.

Besides all that ... this is not the first sacrifice of an animal for human purposes. How many cultures throughout history have included human or animal sacrifice in their rituals? Do we protest the actions of the Aztecs or the Greeks or the followers of Santería? Why, if it is in the service of art, is this agonizing death different than the sacrifice of a chicken or an ox to a spirit?

Mind you, I AM NOT ADVOCATING the abuse of animals. I'm just pointing out the hypocrisy of censorship and this kind of hand-wringing outrage.
Date:March 11th, 2008 05:15 pm (UTC)
I thought about it for a while and have concluded that the artist is a sadist. Nobody can solve the problem of suffering outside of their sphere of influence. It is too big a problem. But the artist brought the dog inside his sphere, then tortured it. That basic inability to bond or even show some mercy to a creature that is close to him says that he's a sociopath. My guess is that viewers aren't reacting so much to the dog's suffering per se as they are reacting to the presence of a human being that is so cold blooded as to be personally threatening to them. It's really as simple as that. Not knowing much about the artist, my impression is that he should be in jail. Not because of the dog, but because of the kind of person he has shown himself to be.

The question of "what is art" strikes me as totally uninteresting.
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Date:March 11th, 2008 05:37 pm (UTC)
i'm not really an activist.. it's not my thing
but my point is
censoring this "art" furthers the problem of people not wanting to see things they don't agree with
like faggots... or muslims... or black folk... or native indigenous peoples that they've stolen their land from
pushing it to the side, starving it (which is very common in south america, i mean... to starve and torture to the "indians"
the fact i'm making is this atrocity is COMMON
a large streak of humanity could be called "sadistic"
but, instead, they're called "successful" or "wealthy" and they just "mind their own business" or "take care of themselves"
that's fine

and i'm not particularly into shock art
or pity art
but i think it's disgusting that he should be censored

i suppose i've spent a lot of time looking at starving people and animals all over the world
so i find this statement strong and powerful and brave

and i'm surprised you say "sadist" as a bad word.
Date:March 11th, 2008 06:06 pm (UTC)
I'm not advocating the censorship of art. If he wants to put images of suffering in people's face, great. I would, however, support his prosecution for animal cruelty, if such a thing is even a crime in his country. I have absolutely no problem with showing people things they don't agree with. I do have a problem with people who lack basic empathy, because they are dangerous. Cruelty to animals is a reliable proxy for cruelty to people, and as far as questions of law and society go, it's a short line from his art to my personal safety.

Perhaps another "work of art" would be to get personally invoved in arranging his prosecution as a "social statement". Would you advocate censoring that art?

It bears mentioning that I say this as someone whose relationships with animals are also considered criminal, and are perceived as a threat to society for reasons that might seem similar. The difference is that while I present a sign of being threatening I am not actually threatening. And I'm aware that most people don't understand that distinction. But even as I make that distinction for myself, I don't think this artist is merely "misunderstood" or just "trying to make a point". He's spiritually defective. My unusually acute interest in the squirrelly world of animal rights doesn't undermine this conclusion; it makes me more confident about it.

I see no equivalence between ignoring suffering you aren't involved with and prolonging suffering you are involved with. Humans as a species have no experience or intuition in dealing with anything outside their own radius; you can't expect justice in a world of anonymity and unaccountability. But you can, and should, expect it in close quarters, as in the relationship between the artist and the dog. The difference is plain as day to me, and the fact that the artist claims unawareness of this difference is telling.

There are two uses of the word "sadist". One of them involves theatrics and exploration, and the other involves malice and cruelty. Obviously I'm using it in the latter sense.
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Date:March 11th, 2008 06:20 pm (UTC)
again, i hear what you're saying
and i wouldn't deny the rights of people to get him hanged

but it's doubly absurd

where i'm coming from is this:
i grew up in rural indiana

i knew MANY KIDS
who caught stray cats
bound them
and stuck m80's up their ass and watched them explode

or bound them and put them in someone's mailbox to freeze to death in a sub zero winter night

or injected them with kerosene to watch them stagger and die

not to mention blowing up fish
and torturing stray dogs other ways


and how many other kids all over america did and do this?
all over the world?

and now these kids are full grown
as grown as me
i know one is a lawyer

i know you can say that they were just kids
so it's different

but THAT was malicious and sick to me

this guy, this Artist, making public and forced something that happened every day in the dark of a city alley
is a strong statement

if you don't appreciate conceptual art, no problem

but animals suffer equal and worse cruelties to make leather jackets and hamburgers

you know creatures spend their entire lives unable to move even a foot
being fed a mixture of their brother's bodies and their own shit
so that we can be fed stake

and do you think we should lock up all boot and jacket makers?
every cattle farmer?

are you a vegan?

Edited at 2008-03-11 06:30 pm (UTC)
Date:March 11th, 2008 06:46 pm (UTC)
i knew MANY KIDS
who caught stray cats...


and do you think we should lock up all boot and jacket makers?
every cattle farmer?

What I'm trying to say here is that the problem I'm identifying is not about the suffering of animals. Whether the dog dies on the street or in an art gallery makes no difference in that regard.

What concerns me most about factory farming is not that it harms animals, but because it damages the people that harm the animals, and I might well have to deal with those people after they leave work.

I'm not saying that any suffering is irrelevant, but that some issues are more important than others, and some are more easily addressed than others. The priority is self-interest. And the logic of self-interest compels me to embrace that which is kind and compassionate and reject that which is deliberately cruel, whether in myself or in others. The rituals that would ideally surround meat-eating insulate the (hopefully brief) cruelty of the slaughter from the threat of being personally slaughtered; my interpretation of the dog situation is that this artist has breached a similar wall that leads people to feel personally threatened by his behavior. And I see that as a natural and reasonable response.

I mean, I realize I don't know jack about this artist and his intent. Maybe he really truly believes in what he's doing and seeing this dog die just eats him alive. Maybe his work really is heroic, and he's a kind of conscientious objector. But that sure doesn't come across on that web page; I get a picture of someone who is so decadent and detached from the meaning of his own work that all he's doing is exhibiting his own confusion.

Let's imagine another scenario. Suppose a parent took the money they'd spend on their child and sent it to feed children in Africa, while letting their own child starve in an art gallery. They'd be "raising awareness" while probably saving several lives in the process. But nobody would doubt that there was something seriously wrong with their head. I have little doubt that dogs have pretty much the same emotional experience that people do, so what's the difference?

As you can tell, I've spent a lot of time thinking about things like this. I agree that this exhibit is provocative and instructive. But surely there are better ways of achieving that goal.
(no subject) - (Anonymous)
Date:March 11th, 2008 09:37 pm (UTC)

Re: Fair enough.

Just out of curiosity, how might your relationships with animals be considered "criminal"?

Let's just say that I love animals WAY more than some people consider appropriate. Fortunately that's only considered illegal in 30 out of 50 states. ;-)
(no subject) - (Anonymous)
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Date:March 11th, 2008 06:12 pm (UTC)

Re: You do have a point.

many people's blogs are turned into forums for debate
no need to apologize

it's fitting for such a subject

and though i hear what you're saying..

i was reading through some comments in a brazilian news paper
most people calling for the artists head
saying he should be tortured
or put in prison (which i found quite ironic)

and one person said
"but with all those people who came to see the show... no one cut the dog free... did they? WHO LET THE DOG DIE?"

which i thought was also a good point

i think it's a really great piece of art

as jorge pointed out
it's one of the first Latin American art pieces that's got serious attention internationally for decades..

again, per our discussion about 911 as an art piece
there are certain pieces that use LIFE as a media
some do it respectfully
some selfishly

but it's happened
(and it happens all the time, unfortunately, with a lot less consciousness)
and now the tradgedy, like with 911, lies in how people respond to it than in just the event itself.

Date:March 11th, 2008 06:21 pm (UTC)

Re: You do have a point.

and one person said
"but with all those people who came to see the show... no one cut the dog free... did they? WHO LET THE DOG DIE?"

which i thought was also a good point

No, that's beside the point. Don't blame the audience for the artist's sociopathic cruelty and lack of artistic vision.

i think it's a really great piece of art

You are so wrong.
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Date:March 11th, 2008 06:29 pm (UTC)

Re: You do have a point.

i don't understand how you can say he had no artistic vision...

because you don't understand or enjoy his piece
you invalidate him?

i suppose i do that to artists i don't understand as well

and true, they're not usually killing something alive in the making of their art

yeah, it is sociopathic
but that's a big seller in most of today's television shows and movies
so it's socially acceptable now, isn't it?

we do, you know, live in a culture that's kinda bent on destroying itself.
.. i don't know if there is any artistic vision behind bankrupting our country to destroy and rape the culture and country of iraq... i don't know if there is a vision behind sucking the oil out of the entire planet for a buck and convenience even though anyone with have a fucking brain cell would understand it is there for a purpose and is killing the host of our parasitic fervor... i don't know if it's beautiful or pretty that we're destroying the earth's forests and building entire islands of GARBAGE

but humans are pretty fucked up, you know?

this artwork isn't out of line
it's just another reflection.
Date:March 11th, 2008 06:16 pm (UTC)
That's not art. That's more along the lines of mere evil.

There's no artistic merit or revalation beyond the "artist's" lack of imagination and total lack of any connection with other beings.

Sometimes, Dominic, you can't cry Fire in a crowded theatre.

Edited at 2008-03-11 06:19 pm (UTC)
(no subject) - (Anonymous)
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Date:March 11th, 2008 08:24 pm (UTC)


You... also being an Academic, can say these things much more eloquently than i

i'm surprised how much this passionately incites rage in me

thanks for talking along with me.

not that you're on the same side as me

which you are, but not completely
that's not the point

i think you get it


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Date:March 11th, 2008 07:21 pm (UTC)
I like dogs better than people
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Date:March 11th, 2008 09:47 pm (UTC)
I agree with that_dang_otter. There are many ways to have made a statement that didn't involve physically engaging with the animal and then letting it starve to death. I find that act sadistic and inexcusable.

You can call this art but that does not mean that is is _also_ inexcusable sadism. You can call torture of humans "science" and learn from it but that does not mean it is not excusable.
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Date:March 12th, 2008 07:32 am (UTC)
I have to say that I do love dogs, and that I agree that the artist needs to at least get some sensitivity training when it comes to animals, But I also agree with you.

In it's own way, the artwork shines a light on what happens every day in the world.

In Spain, for instance, the corporate media has fun covering their watered down version of "Running Of The Bulls."

Sure, it's fun to see people run away from the bulls.

But what none of them ever show, is the torture and slaughter of the bullfights that take place right afterward.

This is not like the more humane Mexican bullfights where they kill the bull after it loses all of it's blood and falls.

This is torture. This is cutting off the bull's ears and tail while it's still alive. This is kicking it in the groin while it's still alive, and begging for to be killed so the pain will stop.

Yet no one says anything. No one covers it. It's Spain's dirty little secret, and they're proud of it. They think it makes them more "manly."

That's just one instance. But yeah, there's alot of tortured animals in this world, and it's pretty sick.
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Date:March 13th, 2008 08:00 pm (UTC)
I thought of this post yesterday while reading about this show where Holcombe Waller dressed up as a Saudi princess and a friend was in drag as Laura Bush and they danced around to a recording of The Weather Girls "It's Raining Men" while footage of the Two Towers falling on 9/11 and body parts fell on the stage.

It just made me think that people are so narcotized by the media and the Deep Disinformation of the Government that sometimes a really extreme experience is needed to shake them out of their stupor.

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