Artistic Freedom or Animal Abuse?

In the year 2017, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York City released several art pieces in an exhibit called, “Art and China after 1989: Theater of the World.” Made by Alexander Monroe, the Samsung Senior Curator of Asian Art, along with Hou Hanru and Phillip Tinariin, the purpose to this art exhibit was to display the emergence of the growth and incredible globalization of China post 1989, the year when the Cold War began to end.

One of the art pieces that gathered the attention of many is called Dogs That Cannot Touch Each Other. Here, pit bulls are standing on a platform of unstable ground and are placed facing each other. Once the unstable ground starts to move, the dogs are brought to a state of panic where they end up running towards each other in order to tackle. However, because the dogs are attached to the ground, they are running towards each other, but not actually moving. Therefore, the dogs are brought to a state of fatigue. This art piece is only portrayed in a video format, and is a recording that was filmed in Beijing back in 2003. The artist had brought it back with the intention to portray the ideas behind power and control in a way that can be universally comprehended. In other words it is made to “reflect society at large, where through unavoidable participation, subjects are either dominating or subordinated.”

Another art piece that was controversial was “Theatre of the World,” and this displayed reptiles and insects that were placed to fight one another until death. In the end, due to the petitions (nearly 700,000 signatures were collected) that had arose from the viewers claiming animal cruelty over the art pieces, a total of three of these art pieces from the exhibit were removed, which is extremely rare as this art exhibit was already released to the public. However, outside of this exhibit, there are still countless art pieces where animals dead or alive are displayed.

Crimes committed by themselves are called crimes, but crimes used for art is art. It might’ve been successful in showing the significance of the authority of China, but taking into account of ethics and morality, what truly defines a crime? And where is the line between artistic freedom and animal abuse?

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Allice Yang

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