DawnWatch: Animal slaughter art exhibit closes under peaceful protest, then threats — SF Chronicle 3/30/08

Tuesday, April 1st, 2008

Previous IDA alerts here and here.

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: DawnWatch – news [at] dawnwatch.com
Date: Tue, Apr 1, 2008 at 1:28 AM
Subject: DawnWatch: Animal slaughter art exhibit closes under peaceful protest, then threats — SF Chronicle 3/30/08

Last week, a San Francisco art exhibition that included animal cruelty was in the news. This Sunday’s San Francisco Chronicle, March 30, included a lead article (by Ilana DeBare, pg B1) headed, “Art Institute halts exhibition showing killing of animals; Workers threatened; video unclear about why deaths filmed.”

The article opens:

“Citing threats of violence by animal rights activists, the San Francisco Art Institute said Saturday that it is canceling a controversial exhibition that included video clips of animals being bludgeoned to death, as well as a public forum it had scheduled to address the controversy.

“”We’ve gotten dozens of threatening phone calls that targeted specific staff people with death threats, threats of violence and threats of sexual assaults,’ said Art Institute President Chris Bratton. ‘We remain committed to freedom of speech as fundamental to this institution, but we have to take people’s safety very seriously.’

“The exhibit that sparked the controversy was a one-person show by Paris artist Adel Abdessemed called ‘Don’t Trust Me,’ which opened March 19.

“Along with a variety of other elements, the show included a series of video loops of animals being bludgeoned to death with a sledgehammer in front of a brick wall. The animals killed included a pig, goat, deer, ox, horse and sheep.”

While the headline and opening lines of the article suggest that the exhibition was removed only because of threats of violence, further on we read:

“Abdessemed’s show, one of about a dozen public exhibitions that the 650-student school hosts each year, had opened fairly quietly. But as word spread among animal rights groups, more than 8,000 people sent e-mails to the institute slamming the show. Institute officials temporarily closed the show Wednesday and scheduled a public forum for Monday.

“But then the tone of some of the e-mails turned violent, Bratton said, with threats against individual staff members, such as, ‘We’re going to gather up your children and bludgeon their heads.’ Officials decided to shutter the exhibition permanently, the first time in the institute’s 137-year history that a show was closed for safety reasons. They also canceled the forum.

“”Some of the people who said the most threatening things said they would be present at the forum,’ Bratton said.”

(More below the fold…)

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

Sunday, March 30th, 2008

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] idausa.org
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

(More below the fold…)

IDA: Tell San Francisco Art Institute to remove snuff video exhibit from gallery

Wednesday, March 26th, 2008

(Crossposted from.)

Note to those who carelessly toss out some variation of the complaint that “animals are treated better than people” (usually taking the form of a lamentation that ‘x’ minority group is treated worse even than mere animals; e.g., “women are treated worse than animals” or “dogs are treated better than women!”): Does this mean that I can, say, fillet a baby and get away with my crime, just so long as I videotape it and call it “art”? No? Then STFU.

And for Chrissakes, it’s not as though Abdessemed has to go out and slaughter another six animals to make such an exhibit; animal abuse is everywhere. She could have aired any six of the hundreds (thousands?) of undercover investigations conducted by animal activists. How is exhibiting something you can find on YouTube with distressing frequency “innovative” or “art”, even? Yawn. She’s not an artist, she’s a sadist.

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: In Defense of Animals – takeaction [at] idausa.org
Date: Tue, Mar 25, 2008 at 1:27 PM
Subject: Tell San Francisco Art Institute to remove snuff video exhibit from gallery

The “Art” of Animal Cruelty

Tell San Francisco Art Institute to remove snuff video exhibit from gallery

Walk into the Walter and McBean Galleries in San Francisco’s posh Russian Hill neighborhood, and you may be shocked to see what passes for contemporary “art” these days. Six televisions display video images of six different animals — a doe, a goat, a horse, an ox, a pig, and a sheep — being bludgeoned to death with a large sledgehammer by “artist” Adel Abdessemed of Paris. Entitled “Don’t Trust Me,” this sick exhibit is Abdessemed’s and the Institute’s self-serving attempt to pass off the brutal abuse and killing of animals as legitimate artistic creation.

What such “artists” and their patrons overlook is that animals are living beings who feel and suffer just like we humans — and we are no more justified in taking their lives at will than we have the right to kill another person. Such abuse of animals may elicit horror and disgust in viewers, but that does not qualify it as art. Far from it — in fact, “Don’t Trust Me” represents the very worst impulses of the human imagination.

It takes no artistic talent or ability to kill animals, and Abdessemed should have never been given a venue for his sickening “work” in the first place. To their great discredit, the San Francisco Art Institute agreed to sponsor this exhibit, lending it an air of credibility, but what makes matters worse are the obscene rationalizations this venerable institution of learning and culture offers in defense of the sleazy snuff films. These include pedantic claims that such killings “regularly take place…in the real world, on a regular basis,” and that the installation “(makes) typical moral and cultural constraints seem beside the point.”

Such statements betray not only a lack of compassion and basic human decency, but also a fundamental confusion of true artistic creation with the destruction of life. Abdessemed’s work is of no artistic value, and rather than raise people’s consciousness about the cruelties committed against animals every day, it will encourage them to accept animal abuse as a way of gaining attention and notoriety.

To call someone who murders animals an “artist” is an insult to every real artist who refuses to rely on violence and shallow, sensationalistic gimmicks to express his or her vision. While the work of such murderers will surely not endure, their antics may encourage and incite others to torture and kill animals, so it is crucial that people of conscience voice our outrage over this monstrous display of cruelty.

Please Take Action to urge the San Francisco Art Institute to remove Abdessemed’s disgusting exhibit immediately, and implement a policy explicitly prohibiting exhibits for which animals were exploited or killed.

(More below the fold…)