IDA: In Defense of Animals Denounces Snuff Video at Art Exhibition

March 30th, 2008 7:10 pm by Kelly Garbato

FYI: SFAI has apparently canceled the exhibit; according to this article, “a public forum [SFAI] had scheduled to address the controversy” has been nixed as well. I’m assuming that it’s the same forum IDA is referring to in this alert; I don’t think it was canceled until Saturday or Sunday, after the alert was released. Either way, I’m crossposting it as an update. (Sorry for the delay, I still haven’t quite recovered from Thursday’s dental surgery.)

The SF Chronicle article also provides some additional info about Abdessemed and the exhibit:

Art Institute officials said Saturday that Abdessemed had shot the videos at a farm in rural Mexico that routinely slaughters animals in the way he depicted. They said the videos were part of a social critique. “One of the things this exhibition was pointing to was the difference in production of food resources between industrialized production in the U.S. and in poorer countries,” said Bratton.

But the exhibition was a far cry from straightforward exposes like Upton Sinclair’s classic muckraking book, “The Jungle,” or the Humane Society’s video footage.

The show did not mention that the videos were shot in Mexico or provide any historical context. Other parts of the exhibition included large neon sculptures and a video of Abdessemed hanging upside down from a helicopter while creating a drawing based on a 19th century French painting.

“Those killings were done gratuitously, not like someone documenting a slaughterhouse,” Katz said. “It sends a terrible message to Art Institute students that it’s OK to go out and do similar things.”

So I still don’t buy this bullshit about “Don’t Trust Me’s” grand social goals. If Abdessemed wanted to draw attention to animal cruelty, he would have provided some contextual info. A half dozen animals, bludgeoned to death against a quaint brick background, played on a loop with no commentary, is a snuff film. These deaths were staged for the camera, in stark contrast to the thousands upon thousands of undercover videos taken by animal rights advocates over the past few decades. If you want to draw attention to animal cruelty, you use existing footage. If it’s not purty enough for you, rework it. But if you go stage a few cases of animal abuse specifically for your exhibit, you’re an animal abuser, not some kind of visionary.

(You can read the previous alert here.)

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: In Defense of Animals – takeaction [at]
Date: Fri, Mar 28, 2008 at 1:14 PM
Subject: In Defense of Animals Denounces Snuff Video at Art Exhibition


In Defense of Animals Denounces Snuff Video at Art Exhibition

Animal Protection Organization calls for public to attend Monday’s SFAI Forum

San Francisco, Calif. – Following an overwhelming public response to an action alert from In Defense of Animals (IDA), the San Francisco Art Institute (SFAI) has suspended the Adel Abdessemed exhibition of animal torture videos entitled, “Don’t Trust Me.” IDA’s President Elliot M. Katz characterized the exhibit, depicting the bludgeoning deaths of tethered animals, as a snuff video.

IDA and its members will also speak up at SFAI’s public forum, scheduled for Monday at noon, and IDA is encouraging the public to attend and speak.

What: Public forum to discuss this exhibit
When: Monday, March 31st, Noon
Where: San Francisco Art Institute Main Campus (in the lecture hall), 800 Chestnut Street, San Francisco

IDA president and veterinarian Elliot M. Katz viewed the video loop, depicting tethered animals – a fawn, a goat, a horse, an ox, a pig, and a sheep – being sledge hammered to death, and was repulsed by the display. In a letter to SFAI president Charles Bratton, Katz wrote: ”’Don’t Trust Me’ is nothing more than staged, gratuitous violence, which, had it been filmed in this country, would be criminal.” “Any pretense of calling it art,” he says, “is contriving to be controversial for controversy’s own sake, which can only be counted as the latest addition to the many crimes against animals.”

IDA rejects the notion that Abdessemed’s right to free expression includes the commission or requisition of cruelty to animals. “There is undercover video footage that shows animals being slaughtered in abattoirs, the Outdoor Channel shows animals being shot; there is no lack of existing video footage that might have been used to make whatever point it was that Abdessemed wanted to make,” argues Katz, adding that musings on the nature of art and the place of animals in society could have been provoked in ways other than a series of sensational, violent stunts.

Katz goes on to say that hosting “Don’t Trust Me” is counterproductive to the Institute’s own goals: It neither informs nor inspires, nor advances SFIA’s mission to “be a leader in promoting awareness of the relevance of the arts in contemporary culture.” Katz hopes that SFIA will adopt a formal policy against killing of animals specifically for a piece of art. He hopes that SFIA will follow in the footsteps of Chrysler Museum of Art and will not exhibit or promote the exhibition of art where animals are killed or abused specifically for that piece of art.


If you received this message from a friend, you can sign up for IDA’s Action Center.

In Defense of Animals, located in San Rafael, Calif., is an international animal protection organization with more than 85,000 members and supporters dedicated to ending the abuse and exploitation of animals by protecting their rights and welfare. IDA’s efforts include educational events, cruelty investigations, boycotts, grassroots activism, and hands-on rescue through our sanctuaries in Mississippi and Cameroon, Africa.

In Defense of Animals is a registered 501(c)3 non-profit organization. We welcome your feedback and appreciate your donations. Please join today! All donations to IDA are tax-deductible.

In Defense of Animals
3010 Kerner, San Rafael, CA 94901
Tel. (415) 388-9641 Fax (415) 388-0388
idainfo [at]



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