This atrocity has been brought to you by the contemporary art establishment
Post #1149 • March 27, 2008, 9:24 AM • 49 Comments
A San Francisco art gallery [at SFAI] has canceled a show featuring video images of animals being bludgeoned to death because of "massive" protests from Northern California activists.
The Sacramento Vegetarian Society, Sacramento artist Gale Hart and In Defense of Animals of San Rafael are among groups that condemned the exhibit, "Don't Trust Me," by Adel Abdessemed.
The videos show images of six animals, including a doe, a horse, a pig and a sheep, being killed with a sledgehammer.
The article described the piece too vaguely to form any solid conclusions about it, though, and I abandoned my post. SFAI's Rovian response bears noting, however:
SFAI would like to make it very clear that the Abdessemed exhibition is an instance of a long-standing and serious commitment, on SFAI’s part, to reflection on and free and open discussion of contemporary art. It is a typical feature of our educational mission to encourage our students and the wider public critically to think about and assess the world they inhabit. The video images in Abdessemed’s exhibition are images of events that took place - and regularly take place - in the real world. Their being depicted in video by Abdessemed is part of a long representational tradition, in Western art and beyond. It goes without saying that the motives underlying that representational tradition have often been to criticize and to question the practices of the larger culture of which that tradition is a part. It is of course up to each beholder of Abdessemed’s work to decide for him- or herself whether, where, and how his work fits into that tradition.
I'd like to coin terms for these fallacies, since I see them come up over and over again in the discussion of art: argumentum ad sententia, the assertion that something is good because it provokes thought, and argumentum ad argumentum, the assertion that something is good because it provokes discussion.
Of course, no apologetics for the disgusting excesses of contemporary art would be complete without a message from the video supremacists:
SFAI readily acknowledges that, unlike other representational forms (e.g., painting or photography), the medium of video can imbue such images with a particularly powerful, "real-time" quality—a quality that some people may find disturbing. Because we take such potential discomfort seriously, we posted a disclaimer warning at the front of our galleries in which we indicated the nature of the subject matter of the exhibition.
Are they so thick as to not consider that someone could have painted the bludgeoning of a sheep without any harm to the sheep? It's with that thickness in mind that I go off to a weekend at the Armory and its attendant festivities. Wish me luck. See you Monday.