There's no point debating what Art is or isn't, at least not unless you're a stoned undergraduate and it is past midnight. But whatever artists do should stay within the law and within the bounds of decency.
The dog in the above picture was starved to death, tied in an art gallery as an exhibit. The title of the "work" was spelt out on the gallery wall in dry dog food, beyond the dog's reach. A container of water was placed on the floor, beyond the dog's reach. The dog died. The artist said it was ill and would have died anyway.
The artist, Guillermo Habacuc Vargas, has been invited to represent Costa Rica at an international exhibition and has decided to repeat this "work", starving to death another dog.
Not all artists sympathise. A letter writing campaign is being organised:
I, along with many people worldwide, am outraged that Guillermo Habacuc Vargas has been selected to represent Costa Rica in "Bienal Centroamericana Honduras 2008.” This man is by no definition of the word an artist. He is a criminally insane sadist and enjoys inflicting prolonged suffering upon his innocent victims. He is a danger to all of society, as it is well-documented that those with the capacity to intentionally cause harm to an animal have the same capacity to harm humans. To state that this animal would have died eventually of natural causes is unjustifiable and defies logical, rational thought.I agree with Kate of Small dead animals: he should instead recreate the "work" as a self-portrait.
UPDATE: There's been some speculation this didn't happen quite as reported. I wish I could say that seems to be true, but it doesn't. The artist had two MySpace profiles but has taken one down and cleared the other out. However, his postings there have been widely quoted on many sites and all use the same words:
Hello everyone. My name is Guillermo Habacuc Vargas. I am 50 years old and an artist. Recently, I have been critisized for my work titled "Eres lo que lees", which features a dog named Nativity. The purpose of the work was not to cause any type of infliction on the poor, innocent creature, but rather to illustrate a point. In my home city of San Jose, Costa Rica, tens of thousands of stray dogs starve and die of illness each year in the streets and no one pays them a second thought. Now, if you publicly display one of these starving creatures, such as the case with Nativity, it creates a backlash that brings out a big of hypocrisy in all of us. Nativity was a very sick creature and would have died in the streets anyway.And:
I understand that there are various petitions on the internet with the intention of having me removed from the list of distinguished guests at the Bienal Centroamericana Honduras 2008 expose. These petitions are meaningless, and will not prove to hold any weight in having me removed from the guest list. I'm still trying to understand what is being boycotted here. Most of the signers of the petition are American and were not going to the expose in the first place.The exhibition was reported in Nacion last year, and they certainly held it to be a true report.
UPDATE 2: One of the online petitions against the artist's participation in the Biennial has more than two million signatures.