The Visual Arts Biennial of Central America has invited Guillermo Vargas Habacuc to produce an encore performance of this installation in 2008.
This act not only disregards ethics, morality, and international law, but it is a blatant affront to our intelligence. Freedom of expression does not apply here and I'll tell you why. "Conceptual art", by it's very nature, does not require a visual to communicate an idea. In fact, it is more clearly articulated in written or verbal form. Truly ask yourself, who looks at an installation and just gets it? Understanding the point requires either a detailed written statement or a Masters degree in contemporary art theory. "Conceptual art" is an elitist statement, with an elitist vocabulary to an elitist audience. But, I'll briefly explain it for those who aren't familiar.
It all began in 1917 with Marcel Duchamp. (Well, it began with Kant, but we'll start with Duchamp in the interest of brevity.) He found a urinal, placed it in a gallery, and entitling it Fountain, said that it was art. From Duchamp onward, the entire point of "ready-made" or "found art" is that the part of the artwork that is "art" is specifically not the object. Therefore the object, whether aesthetically appealing or not, is absolutely unnecessary. In fact, if one considers the object aesthetically it negates the entire point and the piece is therefore no longer art. Duchamp's and Habacuc's ideas would have been more effectively conveyed if they had limited it to a written form, much like Schrodinger's thought experiment with the cat in the radioactive box. If the idea is the art, and not the object.... why have the object?
Regardless of whether or not one thinks that placing an object like a urinal or shovel in a gallery constitutes as brilliant art, Habacuc treats this living creature as an object. If his point is intended ironically (irony - an overburdened and weak leg to stand on) to point out starvation, we do not require his 'great insight' to realize that starvation takes place. We do not require his insight to see suffering, pain, fascism, indifference, or death. These are all extremely obvious. So obvious in fact, that a drunken four year old could illuminate the concept for you if you're at all confused. Thus, adding to the suffering in the world only adds to the suffering in the world and does nothing to counteract it.
As social action, this piece is not merely impotent, but destructive. Now we understand that in some poorer areas of Latin America, dogs are regarded much as rats. There are thousands of them on the streets and they pose a public danger. However, in your mind, simply replace the dog with a rat. This does not negate the fact that what he's doing is simply starving an animal. Even if you remove yourself from caring about the animal, it's still conceptually banal and obvious and leads us down an incredibly slippery path.
In 2002 Damien Hirst made a conceptually similar statement in the Guardian:
But, I've got a brilliant idea - let's take it a step further!
Next time we'll take a homeless person, or better yet, a whole family of poverty stricken Central Americans and chain them up before a crowd of self-entitled, bourgeoisie elitists who will watch them starve while they drink their champagne and eat caviar. Or better still, let's just put the family into a pit with lions. It will be over quickly so that we don't exceed the viewers' 30 second attention spans and they can go home early and have their after-party in their mansions by the sea and croon about what a brilliant piece that was ..... oh I'm sorry, that's already been done before and it was called inhumane torture and public execution!
Señor Habacuc, do you understand the idea, or is it necessary for me to "perform" it to clarify?
This is wrong no matter how one defines "art".
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