Artist starves dog?

Recently there’s been a big deal all over the intarwebs about an artist who allegedly starved a dog to death as part of an exhibition, and is supposedly going to re-create the spectacle at another exhibit. The artist in question is Guillermo Vargas, also known as “Habacuc”, and as one might imagine petitions abound DEMANDING!!!! that people take action to put pressure on the event to nix the new exhibit (for example, here). The artist has recently acknowledged that he has received death threats.

I do not wish to defend the attempt to re-create the exhibit, I don’t know enough about that to comment intelligently, but I can say for sure that what happened earlier with the dog has not been reported accurately. Vargas did not starve the dog, the dog was in a state of starvation when he found it. The gallery has reported that the dog was fed outside of the exhibit, which was only open 3 hours a day.

The artist has gone on record saying his intent was to show that people would ignore the animal unless something was specifically done to call their attention to him, and that in effect what they were doing was saving his life and bringing the plight of animals on the street to people in a public forum. The dog was not being starved, it was already starved and they fed it. The dog was untied except for the 3 hours the exhibit was open. Vargas said that the piece meant to test the public and that none of the exhibition’s visitors intervened to help the animal. Furthermore, it was reported that the dog escaped while the exhibit was still ongoing, so no one really knows what happened to the dog. It is apparently not the case that Vargas killed it or starved it to death, and in fact had the dog not escaped it is likely that it would have ended up in better shape than it was in when it was discovered.

The ethics of using any living creature as part of an artistic exhibit are debatable, as are the ethics of intentionally recreating the spectacle, but it is patently not true that the artist killed or starved to death an animal, and to the contrary it appears that his intent was to promote awareness of human cruelty to animals by neglecting them. Because of that, I find it doubtful that he would intentionally commit cruel acts towards another dog.

Perhaps one good thing that could come out of this is that, regardless of how the artist is publicly portrayed, people might become more aware of animal rights issues and the plight of stray and feral animals in urban areas. That would be a cause worth getting involved in.

Story from The Guardian