Meatless Monday: Guggenheim exhibit criticized for using fighting dogs as art

New York’s Guggenheim Museum will pit dogs against each other in an art exhibit that critics are calling unmistakable cruelty against animals.

The three months exhibit called “Art and China after 1989” begins Oct. 6. Protesters have brought attention to one exhibit by artists Peng Yu and Sun Yuan. Their exhibit tethers four pairs of American pit bulls to eight wooden treadmills. The dogs are faced off against one another, running “at” each other but prevented from touching one another, which is a stressful and frustrating experience for animals trained to fight.

The dogs get wearier and wearier, their muscles more and more prominent, and their mouths increasingly salivate. At this live 2003 “performance” in China, a video was recorded, complete with close-up shots of the dogs’ frantic, foaming faces. This 7-minute video will be on display at the Guggenheim exhibit.

The museum issued a statement saying the exhibit of more than 150 works of conceptual and experimental art texplores the end of the Cold War, the spread of globalization, and the rise of China.

The work is a seven-minute video of a performance that was staged at a museum in Beijing in 2003, during which dogs were placed on non-motorized treadmills facing one another and prevented from making contact. Contrary to some reports, no fighting occurred in the original performance and the presentation at the Guggenheim is in video format only; it is not a live event.

Reflecting the artistic and political context of its time and place, “Dogs That Cannot Touch Each Other” is an intentionally challenging and provocative artwork that seeks to examine and critique systems of power and control.

We recognize that the work may be upsetting. The curators of the exhibition hope that viewers will consider why the artists produced it and what they may be saying about the social conditions of globalization and the complex nature of the world we share.

In another example, artist Xu Bing tattooed meaningless characters all over the bodies of two pigs, a boar and a sow, who were put on display, mating, in a museum exhibit in Beijing in 1994. The Guggenheim will feature the video of that “performance” as well.

Another exhibit will feature live animals (reptiles, amphibians, insects) that are trapped in a glass enclosure for attendee viewing.

According to the NY Times article, “During the three-month exhibition some creatures will be devoured; others may die of fatigue. The big ones will survive. From time to time, a New York City pet shop will replenish the menagerie with new bugs.”

A petition has been started urging people to sign calling on the Guggenheim to dismantle the exhibit.

Let them know that animal cruelty holds no place in art in the United States, nor should it anywhere in the world. This assault on animals in the name of art will not be tolerated or supported.

So far, the petition has received more than 300,000 signatures. Once it reaches half a million signatures, the petition will be delivered to the Guggenheim Museum.

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Peg Fong is also in recovery from newspapers


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