McSweeney's lists aren't even this good

I've been thinking about ethical and philosophical issues facing the art world today, and I know this sounds pretentious, but I am not kidding you, my interest in such a dorky subject is legitimized by a Facebook group about it discusses, pragmatically called, "Prevent the 'Artistic' Death of an Innocent Animal-SIGN THE PETITION!".

These 410,000+ group members advocated against Guillermo Vargas' recent art installation piece entitled "Eres Lo Que Lees" ("You Are What You Read"). They believed that it was completely atrocious that the artist would consider displaying an emaciated dog as the subject of an installation art piece. The crucial assumption the protesters made, of course, was the link between the images of a tied, starving dog they saw on the Internet and the (incorrect) news stories that suggested the image's subject was the art piece, not the performance of the image of a starving dog.

It's clearly the artist's on how consumers assume facts based on images we see proliferated around us: we rely on narratives suggested by images that may or may not be true. The artist was not, in fact, starving a dog and calling it installation art. Vargas was, in fact, proliferating the image of a dog starving on a YouTube video, "press" images, and other unconfirmable sources of media.

While the point of the art piece, as the title of the piece makes clear, deals directly with press and Internet proliferation and how we always assume the worst because of what the images are suggesting (or, rather, what we assume by our own subconscious narrative-making), the issue at hand is the fundamental misunderstanding these 410,000+ students had while imperializing the issue on all their friends.

I applaud their efforts to think in the abstract about the potential philosophical dilemma presented by the notion of live presentation of animal abuse as art (versus representation of such things in films, etc, which is totally different). But somehow, I don't think Damien Hirst's job is on the line quite yet-- least not from these folks. Here are some choice quotes from Facebook group commentary, which I promise I did not make up, and I apologize for including the last one which is comically long (last names omitted due to irrational fear of lawsuit):

From Colleen S., E. Michigan-
Yeah, I've seen something like this before, but what was it? Oh yeah, the HOLOCAUST. Thousands of people collected, subdued, and starved to death. Was that an artistic masterpiece? If you call this art, you'd have to call Hitler an artist, I mean after all he was trying to make a culturally altering statement as well, right Shiggmasta? It's not art; it's sadistic, immoral, and completely disgusting. This poor creature did not deserve this, and neither does any other animal on the planet.

From Kaylee M., Armada Area High School-
I agree with Colleen S[-----} on this. Saying that this is art is saying that the Holocaust was art. If I were the artist I would've tooken the dog to the vet. and let him get fixed up. [Hidden grammatical error: Kaylee also misspelled Colleen S.'s last name. Plus two points!]

From Telisha P., E. Kentucky-
whoever is doing this is going to hell.

From David M., Wash. College-
[posted as several posts, separated by author's own "(cont...)" notes.] While I will say that most humans obviously value human life over animal life, it does not make this situation any less cruel. I have read several posts on the pictures of this group, and the ones that support this as a work of art, I respect your opinion.

I will ask, however, was Hitler trying to make a statement about those he starved and had murdered en masse during the Holocaust? Could one call all slaveowners in history "artists", then? Obviously (because I know those of you with an opposing view are rolling your eyes and freaking out), these people never viewed themselves as artists. However, if we categorize the above photo as an artwork, a masterpiece that exhibits a situation in the world and humanity's resolve to fix it, cannot the things I have mentioned also be seen as art? Now, who would dare call slavery and the Holocaust "art"?


I believe sometimes in this world that we, as a collective western civilization progressing into the twenty-first century, we thoroughly enjoy breaking the boundaries of the past. We watch television shows that make mockery of things that were once revered, and we listen to music that would make the lowest bottomfeeder of the Victorian era blush, and so on. But that is a television show or a song. You may choose not to watch or listen, and your ignorance will cause no physical or other kind of pain. When we become too desensitized to the power and responsibility attributed to breaking boundaries, we ourselves become a steamroller that pushes through and destroys the beauty of this world. Will we destroy boundaries until the chaos of some borderless world (in the philosophical and physical sense) comes to be?


What Mr. Habacuc should realize is that his artwork is lacking an evalution of importance and need. Does this work even *need* to exist? It is a dog, and it is without voice or language. Yet it does have feelings, emotional and physical. One of the criterion used by the US federal government for judging obscenity in media is in regards to something's artisitic value. If all that can be said of the artistic value of this piece is that it can be used to make mankind band together to fight animal hunger, I'm afraid the argument falls rather short in light of the opposition.


Basically, all I mean to say is that this kind of art does not *need* to happen. A poor animal (and that includes snake, vulture, etc.) should never become the focus of humanity's art in this way. Would you give praise to an exhibition of ants dying in insect gas, just because it happens everyday and you want to bring attention to it? This is clearly, in my opinion, the wrong way to use art. It is a violation of Art, and all the beautiful things that it has given to the world through centuries and generations.

I apologize for this rant; I never do this on facebook, trust me!

[p.s. this was posted between 5:30-5:31am]

From Jordan G., Edina Senior High School-
re: all those comparing this to the Holocaust:

you are idiots. you trivialize the deaths of 10 million+ people to try and make a point about the death of an animal. you sicken me.

[Glad to see the Holocaust still being taken seriously. Seriously.]

Thanks for sticking with me. I don't know if you paid attention this long or whether you also take pleasure in the irony of an installation artist's successful performance piece, but in any case it was good to get it off my chest and maniacally laugh at fellow Facebook members.

I say fellow because there is plenty to mock me about. I just found that video on the Internet, and if you know who I am, you can probably find me (circa 2004) in the first segment.

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