Recently, a Canadian art school student came under fire when a heart was found in a trash can near his house. This caused suspicion by local authorities, who jumped to the worst conclusion and concluded that this must be a human heart. The student didn’t respond with panic because the heart was that of a pig, and it was for an art project.
Joel Andrew Clinton was told to create a project focusing on the idea of love, which was expressed in an old letter that was source for inspiration for the project. He and his partner decided they wanted to create something visually graphic, and instead of graphically editing or even buying a prop heart and brain, the pair decided to go into China town and buy the parts for less than 3 dollars. The whole idea surrounding the project was that there would be a visual representation of the struggle between the mind and the heart when falling in love with someone. Joel and his partner Jen enlisted help from a photographer to capture the bloody parts, and when they had wrapped up the shoot, they wrapped up the parts and tossed them.
What they didn’t expect were so many rumors going around about the mysterious parts found in the trash bin. Authorities questioned the original source of the heart and brain, and rumors swirled that they belonged to a human. Joel was possibly being accused of murder because of an art project. He was questioned by the police, and cooperated fully. When heading back to classes, he received texts with rumors that there were other parts that were chopped up and hidden, even human bones. What had began as a really interesting idea for a project quickly shifted over night to talk of murder, which was really unsettling among this campus and community. While the hype did die down after everything as clarified, Joel was still stunned at the reaction to his choice of medium for his work . Joel was referred to as the “heart guy” by strangers and the police, all for one art project.
This was a funny way to draw attention to a piece, unintentionally. I think that this was an interesting link between criminality and art because there were so many different ways that this act was misconstrued. To go from an artist to a supposed killer overnight is intense and kind of insane. I also think that this story in itself is particularly interesting, while the art piece is not. There is much hype and drama surrounding the medium of the piece, but not the piece itself. The subject of his art became not the message of the connection lost between the heart and the brain when loving someone, but instead the loss of the connection between the artist and his intent.
I do believe, as I believe most would, that there was no malicious intent here. I mean, these body parts are for sale as many people do consume organs, so it’s nothing illegal. I guess I also find it odd that there was only a heart found, and a brain, so I’m not sure why they wouldn’t have found other body parts? I’m sure the police wondered why only those parts were found, but the fact that it spread so far and got so out of hand just goes to show the power of imagery. This also isn’t the first time any body parts have been used for art. There is something obviously more visceral about having something that used to be living be featured in an art exhibit. In this instance, this was for a static photograph that was a one time thing, but other artists have pushed even further boundaries; Peta Clancy and Helon Pryor actually reanimated pig hearts for a performance art piece, something which many see as pushing way past the boundaries.I for one find it fascinating that we are able to bring something to life, in a non functional sense, for a moment with the technology that’s progressed. But, there are so many ethical and moral issues tangled up with using animal parts and with also bringing life back into something that is already dead. To what extent do we go for art? To make a scene and to make an impact and to be noticed? People are getting bored and I think sometimes it takes some rule breaking to put yourself out there and I am all for that. Art pieces like these are to be enjoyed, oggled at, and either forgotten and remembered. This is going to be something Joel and Jen are going to have a hard time forgetting.