Sunday, April 13, 2008

Who wants to be an artist?

I am an artist who struggles every moment over what it means to be an artist. I struggle so much so that I refuse the mantle of "artist." The reason for this is that I revere that mantle, and hold it in such high regard that anyone who dares assume the honor and responsibility of "artist" must be worthy, absolutely. For a person to be an artist, that person must embody all that is good and noble, and all that is bad and horrible about humanity, and eschewing neither, but at the very least striving to present in their work the beautiful success of our human civility over our terrible animal instincts.

An exhibit recently scheduled to display at the San Francisco Art Institute by the so-called artist Adel Abdessemed, depicting various animals rope-tied by the neck to a stake in the ground bludgeoned to death with a sledgehammer (by an off-camera butcher), was truly abhorrent, and inhumane. So much so that thousands spoke out and wrote so many letters of protest that eventually succeeded in closing down this horrible exhibition.

Rightfully so, in this "artist's" opinion.

To this day, I still do not know what the true intention of the artist's display of this exhibition was, so I can only guess. For a man to film himself (or someone) being so horribly cruel to animals, without offering any context - or subtext - whatsoever beyond calling it "art" (for art's sake?) is unjustifiable. The exhibition was presented with none such information whatsoever, and it was only after mass protest that the [artist] offered any frame or purpose behind his original intent. I don't buy it for one bit. The closest guess I can surmise is that this exhibit was meant to magnify how inhumane man can be. But for a man to be horribly cruel to animals for no other reason than to satisfy the wishes of another man wanting these acts captured on film is nothing short of horrible. For the director to want to capture these acts and call this art is even more horrible. This is no different than that same man filming himself (or some other man) cutting off the head of another man, and then calling it art. Instead, "non-human" animals are used, to the detriment of humankind.

Another exhibition by an artist named Guillermo "Habacuc" Vargas is equally horrible. This so-called "artist" abducted a stray dog from the streets, tied it to a stake in a so-called "art gallery," and left it to starve under the watchful gaze of so many art patrons, and other heartless humans, and called it art. Fuck him!

I understand deeply the controversy of art. I know that artists who challenge us intellectually and emotionally are often derided and hated by their contemporaries. I know that it is art what has propelled humans beyond animalism, and that it is controversial art that has forced us from one lower mindset to that on higher. Art defines humanity as much as does science, and art has pushed humanity forth beyond the dark ages of religious oppression, and art will always be our final salvation against all that is horrible about our most base animal instincts. Except when we celebrate our base animal instincts as art.

Wantonly causing the suffering of sentient beings and callously masquerading these horrible deeds behind the pretense of art does exactly the complete opposite of what art means to the furthering of humankind. If the horrible suffering of sentient animals is what it takes to move humankind forward, we are forever doomed as a species. And, if this is what it means to be an artist, I want nothing to do with that. Call me a proud philistine, and be damned the "artists."

To that end, I would consider it high art for Mr. Vargas to chain himself to the floor of a popular art gallery while passers-by watch him starve to death. For Mr. Abdessemed, he should do the same, but set up a video camera, and offer the passers-by a whack at his head with a sledgehammer. For if art be the betterment of humanity, so too would be the removal from the artist gene-pool of these subhumans. What better way for this to occur than by results of their own imaginations?

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