This blog post may contain content that may upset readers.
(And, if I have to write that, you know it’s not good news.)
Due to the nature of the content of this post, I will not feature any photos or images. If you would like to learn more about this blog topic, I have linked text to their related news articles.
Reader discretion is advised.
“What is war?” I asked.
“Oh, it’s a messy, stupid business,” he said, “Two sides wave flags and beat drums and shoot one another dead. It always begins this way, making speeches, talking about rights, and all that sort of thing.”
“But what is it for? What do they get out of it?”
“I don’t know,” he said. “To tell you the truth, I don’t think they know themselves.”
~ Hugh Lofting, Doctor Dolittle and the Green Canary
An event this week left me wracked with emotional pain. I am a lover of art. Being a writer, it shouldn’t be a stretch of the mind to understand that I love all forms of artistic expression. Even the uncomfortable. I also live in America which is protected by the First Amendment. Being a print journalism major, it shouldn’t be a stretch of the mind to understand that I firmly believe in the freedom of speech, and the protection over those who express theirs.
However, there is a line.
It doesn’t seem like it, but there is a line.
No, I’m not talking about what’s going on with football. I cannot express how little I care about football. There should be no surprise for how much disdain I hold for football.
I’m talking about the Guggenheim Museum.
This week, great controversy was stirred when the Guggenheim announced it would host an exhibit called “Dogs That Cannot Touch Each Other” by husband-and-wife artists Sun Yuan and Peng Yu. It features dogs strapped to treadmills, the dogs encouraged to engage in fighting with each other, but are held securely a few feet away from each other with ‘artistic apparatus’ the artist had created. Dogs, by no choice of their own, strapped to run endlessly on the treadmill towards their “attacker” in fear, anger, and frenzy, encouraged to go to fight-or-flight mode and stay there, never to reach each other nor provide the animals with any sense of safety.
What breaks my heart even more, is the Guggenheim Museum is not the first museum to show this exhibit!
I’ll let that sink in for a moment.
This exhibit has been touring first in Beijing, China as early as 2003! The Guggenheim Museum released a statement on September 21st defending the exhibit.
I. AM. MORTIFIED.
I. AM. ASHAMED.
I. AM. LIVID.
My country, my beloved country of the United States of America has featured this exhibit before. Yes, there is such a thing as free speech and freedom of expression. However, committing a LIVING CREATURE AGAINST THEIR WILL to something horrific as PAIN AND VIOLENCE is called SLAVERY AND TORTURE.
Yes. I used all capital letters.
THIS IS HOW NOT OK I AM WITH THIS!
It is one thing for a human of their own free will and consent to use themselves for an art exhibit, but that’s a human being. There is no freedom of choice for the dogs. There was no conscious decision by the dogs to volunteer for this exhibit. The dogs did not wish to be put into fight-or-flight mode. The dogs did not choose to fight with each other. The dogs are being forced into this state of mind by the people running the exhibit.
This is not OK.
It will never be OK with me.
It shouldn’t be OK with you.
There is good news.
An online petition was started to prevent the exhibit from being featured at the Guggenheim Museum. The petition succeeded. The Guggenheim Museum decided to cancel the exhibit.
However, the Guggenheim Museum issued this statement about their reasoning:
“Museum Statement—Out of concern for the safety of our staff, visitors, and participating artists, we have decided against showing the art works “Dogs That Cannot Touch Each Other” (2003), “Theater of the World” (1993), and “A Case Study of Transference” (1994) in the upcoming exhibition “Art and China after 1989: Theater of the World.” Although these works have been exhibited in museums in Asia, Europe, and the United States, we regret that threats of violence have made our decision necessary. As an arts institution committed to presenting a multiplicity of voices, we are dismayed that we must withhold works of art. Freedom of expression has always been and will remain a paramount value of the Guggenheim.”
I AM ASHAMED.
The Guggenheim’s reason for pulling the exhibit is not what I had hoped for. They should be ashamed, feel shame, and never have agreed to host this exhibit. I shouldn’t be feeling shame on their behalf. They should already feel that. The fact that they feel zero remorse has darkened this day for me as an artist. That they did nothing to try and stop this exhibit from existing, nor anyone else along the line of this exhibit’s existence has tried to stop this from happening, has shamed me.
Using TORTURE, SLAVERY, and CRUELTY TO ANIMALS as their “only” form of expression is NOT ART.
This could easily have been depicted with a painting, drawing, sculpture, etc. of animals fighting without using a living creature.
I love this country, and am proud to be an American citizen. However, this is the second time in 1 year that I’ve felt ashamed to be an American.
Anyone at the Guggenheim who was behind the initial decision to host this exhibit:
Shame on you.
SHAME, SHAME, SHAME.
#TortureIsNotArt #Guggenheim #CrueltyToAnimals #PETA #Controversy