Thursday, April 17, 2008

Seeking Accurate Information

There's been about a zillion hits to my blog from stories in a host of languages, but mostly Russian for some reason, because Regina Hackett was kind enough to link to my posts about the Guilermo Vargas Habacuc's "starving dog" piece. I appreciate the traffic, even if it seems in some quarters that I approved of this vile idea.

Still, today, from London I get an email from a dear friend so offended by this notion that she asked me to assure her I would never let such a thing happen in my gallery. {{{How did I get roped in this????}}} She forwarded me a hyperbolic email with a link to a petition. The email insists that if people don't act, the artist will do this monstrous piece again:
Let's STOP HIM!!!!! the prestigious Visual Arts Biennial of the Central American decided that the 'installation' was actually art, so that Guillermo Vargas Habacuc has been invited to repeat his cruel action for the biennial of 2008.
Here's the site with a petition she forwarded me a link to. My Spanish is not so good, but it seems to be objecting solely to the presence of Guillermo Habacuc Vargas in the 2008 Bienal Centroamericana Honduras as a response to his earlier "starving dog" piece.

From here I get even more confused, though. The article at the top of this petition site links to an article about the 2007 Bienal Costarricense de Artes Visuales (Bienarte), in which Vargas apparently presented a piece titled Jony leyendo y explicando (translation anyone?) Here's the image of that piece the article included:

Doesn't seem to be the dog piece.

Can anyone see (or report) any evidence that Vargas has been invited to repeat this piece?


Piecing this altogether, I come away with confused-at-best understanding that Bienarte is a multi-country (moving), multi-year event (anyone?) and that perhaps Vargas included one piece in the 2007 part of it, but might actually include the dog piece in the 2008 piece?

Honestly, I've never seen so much misinformation about an artist in my life. Can anyone help me here? I do think there are folks out there milking this to bring attention to themselves, but I would actually sign a petition to stop Vargas from repeating what I feel should be seen as a criminal piece.

UPDATE: At the risk of offending those for whom the central cruelty of the original idea outweighs the tangential issues (like whether petition creators are milking this issue for their own purposes), I have to share this classic image forwarded me by Conscientious's always insightful author, Joerg Colberg, who, for the record, is an avid animal rights advocate.

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46 Comments:

Blogger zipthwung said...

First!

4/17/2008 09:22:00 AM  
Blogger zipthwung said...

Im too lazy to look it up, but I don;t think the piece as described was actually anything more than keeping a nearly dead dog in a gallery while it died.

Not the same as nailing a dog to a cross, or shooting a dog or cooking up and eating a dog or eating a pig (pigs have rudimentary tool use but no thumbs to speak of) and so on and so forth.

Let the record show I care, deeply, about this bid for publicity.

4/17/2008 09:26:00 AM  
Blogger zipthwung said...

WInkleman why dont you just delete this thread and replace it with something like

A) Embezzlement in sunny Spain.

b) Goya's Colossus is not really Goya's Colossus (yeah right and pigs fly).

Ok lets go.

My bet is both of these stories boil down to pathetic attempts at an instiutional level as well as a personal level, to gain attention in a media saturated hell. Hell is full, BTW, get a plunger I'm going in.

4/17/2008 09:33:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Zippy, please, I beg of you, run around the blog 3000 times between comments. Drink a pitcher of Bloody Mary's. Read October. Anything to slow you down a notch.

4/17/2008 09:41:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

er...that should be "run about the block"...you're already running about the blog

4/17/2008 09:57:00 AM  
Blogger zipthwung said...

The primary goal of such chain letters is to flood the system with thousands of pieces of e-mail. If the number is ten, the first individual would send ten e-mails, the recipients would send one hundred (ten each), their recipients would send one thousand, etc. To protect our network and systems, please do not forward such e-mails.

4/17/2008 10:01:00 AM  
Blogger Chris Rywalt said...

After he runs around the block, drinks, and reads October, he should also listen to Springsteen's Nebraska followed by Badlands: A Tribute To Bruce Springsteen's Nebraska. If, after all that, he still has something he wants to say, then nothing on God's green Earth will stop him.

4/17/2008 10:20:00 AM  
Blogger Chris Rywalt said...

Back to the topic: Jony leyendo y explicando is "Jony reading and explaining", which you could've gotten from Google Languages (not that I needed it).

The article basically says there's some controversy about the selection this year, since so few artists were chosen from a large pool of applicants (7 out of 204). Jerkwad's piece -- I mean, Vargas' -- is critical of religion and ethnic divides in Costa Rica in some way.

4/17/2008 10:27:00 AM  
Blogger kalm james said...

Maybe if Vargas starved an art blogger (or just took his keyboard away) he could make the same point, and people wouldn’t get so upset. Then again, perhaps they would, JK

4/17/2008 10:37:00 AM  
Blogger joy said...

Ed,
I've been inundated over the past several weeks with petitions and inquiries from all quarters regarding this dead dog flap -- today was the cherry on the cake, a mass email to sign a petition originating from 303 Gallery. Jeezus. I have tried to deter my various correspondents from jumping on the petition bandwagon at every opportunity, and for a variety of reasons; here's a few: a) there is no way to verify what actually happened in the gallery - misinformation everywhere (and no, the photographs don't "prove" anything - cf. Errol Morris); b) animal rights activists tend to be outright fanatics ready to sensationalize anything at the drop of a hat (not known for their fact checking either); c) email petitions of this kind hail from the mid-90s internet generation, have a proven bad track record, are unverifiable and impossible to implement.

I keep trying to tell my closer friends to steer away from this, lest they unwittingly screw the wrong party as a result of their "best intentions."

4/17/2008 10:59:00 AM  
Blogger joy said...

The primary goal of such chain letters is to flood the system with thousands of pieces of e-mail. If the number is ten, the first individual would send ten e-mails, the recipients would send one hundred (ten each), their recipients would send one thousand, etc....

and yes, zippyzip, yu r right about the flood-net spam effect/goal, that was my first gut reaction... (zip: maybe I know you from somewhere, don't I...??)

4/17/2008 11:04:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

That's been my sense of it as well, Joy. Thanks for confirming my suspicions are not unfounded. In my email to my friend in London, I noted the following:

There is a lot of hyperbole in the version of the story as you're forwarding it below, I believe, though. Here's a short list of what seems simply made up in the report you forwarded:

1. No one anywhere reputable is calling this a "masterpiece." That's one person's hyperbolic attempt to indict the art world and tabloid reporting at its worst.
2. The gallery wrote that the dog simply walked away one day, which I would like to hope is true. They swear he did NOT die in the gallery.
3. I find it kind of incredible that people will believe that visitors to the gallery would have the same notion of what was going on as reported and would respond "emotionlessly" (the entire idea was to stir their emotion, so if that's the case then the idea failed famously). My guess is that most of the photos were taken when people were confused about why this dog was tied up in the gallery or were assured it was a fake piece (i.e., that the dog wasn't going to starve to death). They don't look like monsters.
4. Most of the people I know in the art world are as equally passionate about animals as you are. Some so much that they treat their pets like children. This one dealer who lost her mind is NOT representational in any way of the rest of us. The artist was merely being a dick who deserves to spend time behind bars to sort out why he failed as an artist and a human being.

4/17/2008 11:04:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I heard this story from a good friend: he told me his roommate used to stand in front of the cafeteria of our art school with a live cornish game hen in his hand and he would tell people if they didn't give him money to buy dinner/lunch whathaveyou he would kill the hen in front of everyone, it worked a number of times till people thought he wouldn't really go through with it, he did, then went home and cooked up the little guy. He had his cake and ate it too.

There are starving dogs, nay, starving people in our own country, could we should we worry more about them?

Zip had to comment a lot to make up for the lame "first".

4/17/2008 11:07:00 AM  
Blogger Fer said...

There is actually a whole lot of misinformation. I've tried to clear it up a bit:
1. The exposition of the starving dog took place at Galeria Códice (http://www.galeriacodice.com), Managua (Nicaragua), 16.Aug.2007.
2. Bienarte is the Bienal Costaricense de Artes Visuales (Costarican Biennial of Visual Arts), hold on 13.sep.2007-27.oct.2007 at the Museo de Arte y Diseño Contemporáneo, San José (Costa Rica). As far as I understand, this exposition takes place once every two years in Costa Rica. Guillermo Vargas participated with a diptych: "Jony leyendo y explicando" (Jony reading and explaining) and "Pancartas" (Banners). He and other 5 participants were elected to participate in:
3. VI Bienal de Artes Visuales del Istmo Centroamericano. This event takes place (once every two years?) in different countries of Central America. Its 6th version is going to take place in the city of San Miguel de Tegucigalpa, Honduras (nov.2008 - feb.2009). As far as I understand, Vargas should participate with the same "diptych" that he showed at Bienarte 2007.

4/17/2008 11:09:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Fer,

thank you, thank you, thank you.

That's more or less what I concluded with my awful grasp of Spanish from the sources that seemed somewhat reliable.

Long story short, there seems to be no need to rally the world to stop another starving dog from being abused. The creators of those petitions most likely just have too much spare time on their hands.

4/17/2008 11:16:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is an artist in China who ate dead foetuses. And at least one tree which managed to survive at the edge of a parking lot in Williamsburg was burned down for a film. If art is promoted as being about shocking people, then you get what you get.

4/17/2008 11:45:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

If art is promoted as being about shocking people, then you get what you get.

I totally disagree. Just because some art fails doesn't mean the method is responsible. Whether work intends to shock or not is simply a means of communicating an idea and in no way ties artists using it to the failures of those unqualified to do so competently in my opinion.

4/17/2008 12:15:00 PM  
Anonymous jason said...

animal rights activists tend to be outright fanatics ready to sensationalize anything at the drop of a hat (not known for their fact checking either)

Dear Joy,

Thank you for your thoughtful generalization.

Sincerely,

Us Fanatical, Sensationalist, Animal-Loving Liars

p.s. That said, there does indeed seem to be misinformation coming from all sides on this one, and it's difficult to know what's really going on (see, now that wasn't so fanatical or sensational, was it?).

Oh, wait, nooooooo . . . I feel the fanatical sensationalism surging up inside me . . . can't stop it . . . STOP THE EVIL HUMANS, SAVE THE ANIMALS!! eeeeee -- oooowwww -- aaaaaahhhhhhh!!!!

p.s.s. While I'm overjoyed that the idea of dog torture has kicked so many artistic consciences into emailistic overdrive, I wonder how many of these gallery-going petitioners indulge in a little foie grois from time to time? I mean, not that foie grois production is really any more tortuous than many other methods of factory farming, but at least most people are repulsed when the process is explained to them.

4/17/2008 12:17:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

I wonder how many of these gallery-going petitioners indulge in a little foie grois from time to time? I mean, not that foie grois production is really any more tortuous than many other methods of factory farming, but at least most people are repulsed when the process is explained to them.

Uh, Jason, I think to some point you're proving Joy to be right by conflating these two issues. I can be as repulsed by the process by which certain foods that once were animals gets to my plate as anyone, but unless you become a vegetarian (which is certainly a valid choice), you're always going to be splitting hairs by suggesting one method is more gruesome and deserving of condemnation than others, no?

What I mean to suggest is that absolutism is the logical extension of choosing foie grois over veal over pork over whatever. I think a less "sensational" way to discuss such issues is to do so individually. Asking those repulsed by the dog story how they can discuss it without also discussing foie grois at the same time does indeed make you seem a bit fanatical.

4/17/2008 12:27:00 PM  
Blogger Chris Rywalt said...

But dead dog in gallery doesn't taste good. Foie gras, on the other hand, is awesome.

Also, newsflash: This is how foie gras is really made.

4/17/2008 12:36:00 PM  
Blogger joy said...

Thank you for your thoughtful generalization.

oops I forgot to add: and quick to rise to the bait.

cheers,
j

4/17/2008 12:54:00 PM  
Blogger zipthwung said...

My dog barks some. Mentally you picture my dog, but I have not told you the type of dog which I have. Perhaps you even picture Toto, from "The Wizard of Oz." But I warn you, my dog is always with me. WOOF!

Anyone want to bring up Tom Otterness? WooF!

4/17/2008 01:16:00 PM  
Blogger Joanne Mattera said...

Zip,

I wasn't picturing your dog or Toto or Tom Otterness. Actually, I'm having a hard time picturing you--though your icon reminds me of the old Kool-Ad ads (if it were tripping and, um, carrying a gun).

How are you doing with those laps?

4/17/2008 02:05:00 PM  
Anonymous jason said...

suggesting one method is more gruesome and deserving of condemnation than others, no?

I wouldn't suggest that one is worse than the other, but that they are the same. Torturing a dog hurts the dog just as much as torturing a cow or a pig hurts the cow or pig. The only difference is that most people don't have anthropomorphized pet cows in their penthouses with which to affect their capacity for empathy.

Now, I don't mean to say that eating meat, or wearing leather, somehow disqualifies someone from being outraged at dog torture. Far from it. I'm glad that people are outraged. But before everyone starts a fucking lynching party for this artist, especially before they even know all the facts, maybe they should take a step back and consider the possibility that their condemnation is somewhat hypocritical.

It reminds me of the Michael Vick story, and how the NFL was so quick to condemn him as some kind of repugnant pariah. I mean, this was coming from an organization that's responsible for the slaughter of thousands of pigs every year (so much so that its sport is even referred to as 'pigskin'), and yet Michael Vick is sitting in prison because he tortured dogs instead of pigs. Oops, wrong animal Mike, kill all the pigs you want, just don't fuck with the dogs.

But dead dog in gallery doesn't taste good. Foie gras, on the other hand, is awesome.

Exactly.

oops I forgot to add: and quick to rise to the bait.

Glad I could spice up your day (and this thread!) -- although, as much as I appreciate the fishing metaphor, I hope the bait wasn't a poor little wormy, pierced through its reproductive organs with a shiny barbed hook :-P

4/17/2008 02:17:00 PM  
Blogger Joanne Mattera said...

Jason,

Relax. No one is going to lynch you.

Now tell me: are you wearing leather shoes? Do you own a leather belt? Did you eat meat this week?

Geneally speaking, the problem with the holier-than-thou wing of the animal-rights movement is not their message, it's their hyperbolic, and often violent, method of delivering the message. And often the hypocrisy of their stance.

4/17/2008 02:48:00 PM  
Blogger Joerg Colberg said...

One of the reasons why I, as a vegetarian, don't argue with people any longer is, because arguments usually disintegrate in less time than it takes for a moldy peach, dropped from one's hand, to splatter on the ground and leave an ugly stain, with people yelling "F***ing hypocrite!" at each other.

So just a couple points, which are quite important:

1. It needs to be established that the artist is indeed going to do what some people claim he will do. No need to get worked up about something that is unclear (unless you want to join the moderators in yesterday's ABC debate in proudly lowering the level of discourse to roll in the mud).
2. I'm so infinitely sick and tired of extremists and their extremist opponents, regardless of whether it's animal rights or art or whatever else. I suppose those people being most vocal just reflects the sorry state of public discourse (again, see last night's freak show on ABC), but it's sad nevertheless.

4/17/2008 03:00:00 PM  
Blogger Chris Rywalt said...

Hey, Jason, either you're woefully ignorant or you're trolling. Either way, you shouldn't keep this up.

Since I can't resist, though, I'm going to note that footballs are not and were not (always) made from pig skin. These days almost all leather is cowhide.

I doubt that football, all by itself, is responsible for the slaughter of very many animals. Motorcyclists probably account for a lot more, if you include jackets, pants, roadkill, and toxic exhaust. Since the Hell's Angels didn't condemn Michael Vick, I think we're all okay on the hypocrisy front there.

4/17/2008 03:18:00 PM  
Anonymous jason said...

Relax. No one is going to lynch you.

Joanne, I think you completely misunderstood my comment (so much so that it seems you actually agree with me). The passage you are referring to was criticizing the fact that people are so quick to condemn the alleged dog-torturing artist (and metaphorically 'lynch' him, the artist, not animal-rights activists).

the problem with the holier-than-thou wing . . . And often the hypocrisy of their stance.

Again, this was my point -- that before these petitioners decide to ruin some artist's career, maybe they should first take a step back and consider their own treatment of animals.

Since I can't resist, though, I'm going to note that footballs are not and were not (always) made from pig skin. These days almost all leather is cowhide.

Dammit Chris, don't you know that artists aren't supposed to know anything about sports?!! Yes, apparently footballs stopped being made out of pigskin in the late 19th century. But whether the balls are made from cows or pigs doesn't really change the essence of my point -- which was that the NFL (and especially Nike, Vick's former sponsor) is responsible for far more animal deaths than Michael Vick could ever dream of.

My point is NOT that people who use leather footballs should also be put in prison (far from it -- I think that imprisonment is as inhumane as dog-fighting), but that it seems kind of fucked up that Vick's in prison when the rest of our society abuses animals too, just different ones (e.g, those that aren't as cute, or as easy to anthropomorphize), and in different ways (sporting goods, fashion accessories, etc.).

In the same way, I would hope that anyone wanting to sign a petition condemning this artist would both (a) reserve judgment before getting the facts straight, and (b) reconsider whether his actions are so much worse than their own abuse of animals.

4/17/2008 03:49:00 PM  
Blogger LL Smooth J said...

Couldn't visitors just sneak some food in for the dog?

4/17/2008 03:53:00 PM  
Blogger Joseph Giannasio said...

Not the same as nailing a dog to a cross, or shooting a dog or cooking up and eating a dog

Experimenting with video again Zip?

Damn the bloody mary, break the vodka bottle's neck on the bar old west style, let the jagged edge of the bottle lacerate your lips as you guzzle it down mixing with your blood, then just for fun rub a lemon on the wounds.

P.S.

People tend to cling to animal rights when they feel the government isn't paying attention to them.

Can't wait for Obama to be President so the art world can get back to the serious business of depravity.

Joseph Elitist Giannasio

4/17/2008 03:53:00 PM  
Blogger Joseph Giannasio said...

Couldn't visitors just sneak some food in for the dog?

If the "starve the dog" piece were to be done with as a scheduled event I think some animal rights extremist would steal the dog and fire bomb the gallery. Anonymity was this pieces road to attention.

So hypothetically speaking let's say Ed is offered to do this show and turns it down and the artist walks across the street and the gallery there thinks its brilliant and writes it in.

how many city agencies do you think would would be feuding it out to save the dog westside story style in song and dance on 11th ave lined with news vans and helicopters swarming, as animal rights extremist steal the dog and fire bomb the gallery.

4/17/2008 04:04:00 PM  
Blogger Chris Rywalt said...

Jason sez:
...it seems kind of fucked up that Vick's in prison when the rest of our society abuses animals too, just different ones...

How many animals is your body abusing right now just to keep itself alive? Millions doesn't even begin to cover it.

But let's be a little more serious here. Vick was being purposely and extremely cruel to dogs. Meanwhile when I eat a hamburger, I'm not being purposely cruel to the steer; in fact, I'd prefer it if the steer died a painless, quiet death. And I'd note it's just as illegal to be cruel to cows and pigs and chickens as it is to dogs. It's just those laws aren't enforced as strongly when the criminals are large meatpacking corporations. But then those same meatpacking corporations aren't known for being very good to their human employees, and that's not legal, either.

Anyway. The guy did the starving dog thing (maybe). It was dumb (maybe). It was kind of cruel, but we can all imagine far crueler things done for less reason. Let's all say if we see something that cruel (or worse), we promise to try to stop it as best we can. And then let's just leave it at that.

Can we do that?

4/17/2008 04:53:00 PM  
Blogger Joseph Giannasio said...

I'd say the difference between the slaughter of dogs vs cows is best explained by this

4/17/2008 06:02:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Ed. Vargas should be able to show other work, surely, if he can step away from the dog gun. One awful action shouldn't ban a guy from galleries for life. But that was a real dog with a real tail to tell. It sucked to turn him into a flea-ridden metaphor. Regina Hackett

4/17/2008 06:14:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i picture zip as a bear...
http://www.brenthallard.com/tokyo_note/arronz_aaron.shtml

4/17/2008 07:20:00 PM  
Blogger Siouxfire said...

I wonder if the problem with having the dog in a gallery as opposed to the street isn't down to the fact that in the gallery, there is an immediate scapegoat, someone to blame and lay the responsibility whereas on the street there's a communal myopia.

Also, I don't find it unusual at all that the gallery would 'out' the artist feeding the dog as it is quite common for artists to fool their audience to emphasise a point.

Obviously, I don't know all the facts on this case and I think there are only a select few who do but given we know so little, there is an awful lot of judgement being passed though on a positive note, there is also a lot of interesting ideas emerging.

4/17/2008 07:38:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

bring back the manifesto!
http://www.brenthallard.com/tokyo_note/n_11.shtml

4/17/2008 07:50:00 PM  
Blogger zipthwung said...

pabst blue ribbon!

4/17/2008 10:41:00 PM  
Blogger zipthwung said...

Dark and lonely on a summer's night.
Kill my landlord. Kill my landlord.
Watchdog barking. Do he bite?
Kill my landlord. Kill my landlord.
Slip in his window. Break his neck.
Then his house I start to wreck.
Got no reason. What the heck?
Kill my landlord. Kill my landlord.
C-I-L-L my land lord!

4/18/2008 06:57:00 AM  
Blogger joy said...

here we go in Artnet news this morning (dog not dead; artist is playing us). typical.

4/18/2008 09:24:00 AM  
Blogger Hans said...

I was wondering that you did not move on to the new plan of Gregor Schneider:
http://www.theartnewspaper.com/article.asp?id=7714

4/18/2008 07:57:00 PM  
Blogger Joseph Giannasio said...

Zip

I love HULU

I actually remember seeing this broadcast live thanks for reminding me of it

I also remember Mr. Robinson's neighborhood

4/19/2008 07:21:00 AM  
Blogger zipthwung said...

...if shakespeare were alive today he'd be doing time.

Aint that the truth.

4/20/2008 10:06:00 AM  
Blogger DADACollagePrice:$225 said...

They Came from Within

4/20/2008 12:03:00 PM  
Blogger Donna Dodson said...

as if the dying dog were not enough-

LONDON. The German artist Gregor Schneider is planning the ultimate performance piece: showing a person dying as part of an exhibition.

“I want to display a person dying naturally in the piece or somebody who has just died,” he told The Art Newspaper. “My aim is to show the beauty of death.”

http://www.theartnewspaper.com/article.asp?id=7714

4/23/2008 08:38:00 PM  
Anonymous Marshall said...

Donna:

Kirby Dick already did this with his documentary on Bob Flanagan, SICK, back in the 90's.

The fascinating thing about this whole chain letter fiasco is just how vague all of the information about any aspect of the situation is. From where I'm standing it reads a lot more like a sloppy prank, put on or conceptualism than anything else.

4/25/2008 09:56:00 AM  

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