Monday, December 7, 2009

Art Your Kill

Spot the murder occurring in this photo:

(photo via fashionhayley)

Nobody wants to read about this. Nobody wants to think about this.

White pigeons were tortured and killed during a recent Sydney fashion/art party held by label Ksubi and beer giant Kirin. The event was held at Carriageworks. The pigeons were placed in a large white mesh net. Japanese performance art troupe Kathy delivered a piece from within the enclosure involving loud music, explosions and confetti, and at least one of the birds died during this piece. There are photos of other birds sitting on one of the corpses, now covered in shit.

Partygoers were "holding the birds like toy guns and frightening them for fun". Eventually some pigeons escaped the netting and made their way to the Carriageworks roof, where they still remain. Attempts to retrieve them have failed so they'll probably be shot.

The RSPCA's NSW chief inspector told the Daily Telegraph ""If there's a suggestion these birds have died during the performance, that would not be an acceptable use of the animals".

What is an acceptable use of animals?

Animal slaughter has a history in art. I don't think it's a proud history. When people speak about the power of art, the important of art, the need for art, I always put a mental limit on such claims: nobody should ever have to die for art. Camus wrote that a cause worth dying for is probably actually a cause worth living for; I say that art is never a cause worth killing for. That's basic fucking ethics, right?

Pauline Kael made this point in a much more elegant way during a review of Godard's Weekend, which features the live slaughter of several animals. To paraphrase her, it's just a freaking movie, Jean-Luc. That's not something worth killing for.

But it's very hard to write about ethics in relation to art in Australia today. Nobody wants to read about that. Nobody wants to think about that.

What's an acceptable use of animals? I generally won't review a show that features meat (there are exceptions, where I'll usually note its presence). If a theatremaker buys meat for a production, a factory-farmed animal has died for art, or worse, entertainment. This is a logically sound argument, I reckon. So I won't buy into that.

But nobody really wants to read about that, which is why I don't write about it. But it's also why I don't usually review said shows.

You can read more about the pigeon killing here and here. Funnily enough, the second link offers another thin people don't want to read: the blogger, fashionhayley, writes in the breathless Gen Y way that would probably have given David Foster Wallace a fit and which makes it easier not to seriously consider the matter under consideration (ie animal slaughter). But Hayley's blog perhaps makes a more urgent and informative case than the Daily Telegraph story.

No comments: