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12/21/2004 Archived Entry: "NO KILL I"
Posted by CKL @ 06:22 PM PST

Further proof of the insanity of modern art:

There's an artist ... who kills CATS, mice, doves, RABBITS, and other animals, mutilates their bodies, and then takes their photographs. She's on exhibit, among other places, at the Wetterling Gallery in Sweden. She has taken the top halves of five white mice and made them into finger puppets. She beat a cat to death with a stick. And this is called art. This is not only inhumane, but morally reprehensible.
-- djkitty
I made the mistake of viewing a photo from the exhibit, of a black cat's severed head and tail attached to a vase, and now I feel sick. I wonder if the artist (who will remain unnamed here; no publicity for you) had pets as a child. I'm guessing not.

Human perception is easily warped. Our concepts of "other" are shaped by many things, not the least of which is childhood experiences. Think "You've Got to be Carefully Taught" from South Pacific and "Children Will Listen" from Into the Woods. If you're immersed in it while growing up, you think it's normal.

DeeAnn and I have discussed this before: what constitutes a person? Our cats are part of our family. They're people. Generally, I define "person" as "a sentient entity with whom I can have meaningful communications." (Important: that's can, not necessarily do.) I'm not debating the nature of intelligence or playing Turing Test games; if something seems like a person, for practical purposes of my interaction with that something, it is a person. I'm only as smart as my brain.

Anyway. To me, both cats and humans are people, so the death of a cat is tantamount to the death of a human being, and thus carries the same moral weight. But, as cold as it may sound, how much I care about a particular person depends on a variety of factors. Do I know the person? Do I like the person? I'd care if a member of my family died, but Scott Peterson? Not quite so much.

I didn't know the dead cat we found in the road, but I cried for him. I didn't know the Jews at Auschwitz either.

Back to the original topic. The gallery in question has this to say for itself:

Is it permissible to kill animals in the name of art?

... One can, of course, choose to think that it is always wrong to kill animals in the name of art. That nothing can defend [this artist]. But if you feel more doubtful, we would very much like to explain [the artist's] reasoning, and how we at Wetterling Gallery argue when we exhibit her art.

Art arouses thoughts and poses questions that are necessary. [Necessary? Says who? -C] [The artist's] beautiful pictures are frightening in the same way that many other beautiful things hide some sort of suffering. One can enjoy beautiful exteriors, or one can go beneath the surface and find things that perhaps you do not want to know about. If [these] pictures had been repugnant, it would have been easy to reject them. But now they are so beautiful - and the insight into the reality behind them gives rise to thoughts about people's shallowness and double standards. Many of us eat meat, wear leather or use make-up that has been tested on animals, without this arousing especially strong reactions. But when a picture shows a dead rabbit, all hell breaks loose...

Gee, defensive much? Perhaps the adage about beauty being in the eye of the beholder doesn't translate well into Swedish.

I worry, not so much when obviously crazy people spew, but when other, seemingly rational people subscribe to that spewage. This is-- not to put too fine a point on it-- how genocides get started. When the guy standing next to you is no longer a person, when it becomes okay to kill him for an arbitrary cause, ya got Trouble. With a capital "T" and swastikas.

There's an episode of Star Trek, "Devil in the Dark", which submits that once you can understand another creature's point of view, you must treat it with appropriate respect. Orson Scott Card's Ender books deal with the consequences of not being able to communicate with an "other." It's certainly possible that you'll still go to war even when you do understand the other's point of view (and disagree with it), but it's inevitable if you don't even make the attempt.

I'm not saying we can eradicate prejudice or bigotry, but we should, by now, know better than to teach it. We should know better.

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