Tuesday, April 22, 2008
It started with a dog
In 2007, when I first received a deluge of emails and pictures of the art installation by Costa Rican "artist" Guillermo Vargas "Habacuc," they were so disgusting and sick that I decided against posting any discussion about it, lest I add more publicity to the artist and the act.
He got a ton of publicity worldwide anyway.
But my recent posting about the German artist Gregor Schneider planning to show a person dying as part of an exhibition has re-started the deluge, plus some newish information was made available, and so here it goes:
In 2007 Guillermo Vargas created an installation (details in Spanish and loads of horrible images here), where the artist allegedly paid a couple of Nicaraguan children to chase and capture a stray dog, and then the animal was tied to the gallery wall at Códice Gallery in Managua, Nicaragua and allowed to starve to death.
The Spanish language arts blogsphere erupted in shock and nausea at this event, and subsequently the artist stated (Via):
"Hello everyone. My name is Guillermo Habacuc Vargas. I am 50 years old and an artist. Recently, I have been critisized for my work titled 'Eres lo que lees', which features a dog named Nativity. The purpose of the work was not to cause any type of infliction on the poor, innocent creature, but rather to illustrate a point. In my home city of San Jose, Costa Rica, tens of thousands of stray dogs starve and die of illness each year in the streets and no one pays them a second thought.By October of 2007, the Costa Rican newspaper La Nacion had picked up the story from the Spanish language arts blogsphere and delivered this story. In the story, Marta Leonor González, identified as the editor of the La Prensa cultural newspaper in Managua, confirmed that the dog had indeed died (by then lots of blog stories had come out that the dog had been fed in between shows, or that it had escaped alive).
Now, if you publicly display one of these starving creatures, such as the case with Nativity, it creates a backlash that brings out a big of hypocrisy in all of us. Nativity was a very sick creature and would have died in the streets anyway."
She also stated that the installation included the statement (in Spanish) "You are what you read," written with dog food on the walls of the gallery. It also included an audio of the Nicaraguan National Hymn played backwards, photos and an incense burner, where 175 crack rocks and an ounce of marijuana were burnt.
In the same story the artist defends his installation and makes the point that "no one untied the dog, or gave the dog food, no one called the police. No one did anything." The piece was also an homage to a woman who had been killed by feral stray dogs.
A month earlier Guillermo Vargas had been also chosen to represent Costa Rica at the Bienal Centroamericana Honduras 2008. He already was part of Costa Rica´s Visual Arts Biennial (Bienarte) 2007 when the announcement that he and five other Costa Rican artists would represent their nation at the Bienal Centroamericana Honduras 2008 was made.
The fact that no one (at least in the English speaking world and to Google) had ever heard of this biennial was a little suspicious to me, until later on I figured out that it had been misnamed in the story and in countless other stories that followed. I think that the actual title is the "VI Bienal de Artes Visuales del Istmo Centroamericano."
The selection was made by a jury comprised of Ana Sokoloff (Colombia), Oliver Debroise (Mexico) and Rodolfo Kronfle Chambers (Ecuador).
This selection really incensed the Internet, and several boycott petitions were initiated (one is here), and by October of 2007, one of the best American visual art blogs -- Edward Winkleman -- discussed the issue at lenght and even published an explanation of the event by Códice Gallery defending the actions and claiming that the dog had been fed and that it had escaped.
By March of 2008, the Argentinean newspaper Clarin was reporting that over a million signatures had been recorded. In the same article the three jurors who selected Vargas to the Biennial defended their choice and stated that the work that Vargas offered up had no relation to the earlier installation and they also "rejected" the boycott campaign.
Then a few days ago Artnet.com discussed the story in the context of the dog, the gallery, and the supposed "Bienal Centroamericana Honduras 2008."
Like Artnet, I can't find any references or websites to the above titled Biennial, but what I have found is a letter from the one of the sponsors of the Honduran Biennial (different biennial) and also for the VI Bienal de Artes Visuales del Istmo Centroamericano, which I think may be the forementioned Bienal Centroamericana Honduras 2008. They are the Mujeres en las Artes “Leticia de Oyuela” and the letter about the Biennial, the dog and Vargas is here in Spanish.
To add confusion to the mix, the website of the Museo de Arte de El Salvador (MARTE) has the Biennial scheduled to take place at the museum from 27 May to 27 July of 2008, and back in October 2007 they had a press conference about the Biennial. Not in Honduras, but El Salvador.
And because in this interview of Rebeca Dávila Dada published in the Salvadorean newspaper La Prensa, one of the items in her resume list her as a consultant to the VI Bienal de Artes Visuales del Istmo Centroamericano, by now I should be pretty sure that the "Bienal Centroamericana Honduras 2008" is actually the "VI Bienal de Artes Visuales del Istmo Centroamericano" and will take place in El Salvador and not Honduras.
Not so fast!
For here's the Call to Artists for Salvadorean artists who wish to be considered for the Biennial. They claim that it will take place in Tegucigalpa, Honduras.
Confused again... and now I think that what will happen in MARTE is the exhibition of El Salvadorean artists from which a few will be selected to represent El Salvador at the Biennial - not the actual Biennial itself!
And thus I have emailed a whole bunch of people in Spanish (in Central America) to see where and when this almost internet urban legend Biennial will take place.
One thing seems to be clear, the vile act focused upon the stray dog by Vargas accomplished exactly what this artist desired: immense publicity and horror.
Until he's raised one by Gregor Schneider's human plans. Let's hope that no one raises Schneider's sicker plan.
But I think that I know what is next. It was proven to be a hoax, but for a while ( Via) this story in the Yale Daily News discussed Art major Aliza Shvarts' art project during which allegedly she for nine months "artificially inseminated herself 'as often as possible' while periodically taking abortifacient drugs to induce miscarriages. Her exhibition will feature video recordings of these forced miscarriages as well as preserved collections of the blood from the process."
And I wouldn't be surprised that somewhere, a gallery and an artist are currently discussing some sort of live installation focusing on some sort of in situ abortion of some sort.
We've already had a live circumcision in DC.
And if the law allowed it, you can bet that some sicko would love to make cheap headlines by tying a homeless person to a gallery wall and watch him or her starve to death in the name of art.
It's all been done before by an artist group collective called "The Romans." They ruled the art world, in fact most of the Western world, for a few centuries. In fact, the massive gallery where they performed most of these vile installations still stands in Rome.
Aspiring shock artists should read Suetonius' The Lives of the Twelve Caesars , especially the chapter on Tiberius, to get a lesson on some really disturbing and shocking art installations done by this vile Roman
Face it, it's been done!
Makes me sick.
PS - I bet that these Biennial calls are open to Salvadorean and Honduran born artists residing in the US. It would be a good opportunity to try for, and then if selected you can tell me if the Biennial did take place!
Update: Yale refuses to allow Aliza Shvarts' art project to go on display today; read the story here.
To Marsha Ralls, founder of The Ralls Collection in Georgetown in DC, who together with Seth Goldman, President and TeaEO of Honest Tea, were honored recently by The National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) for their commitment to increasing education and economic opportunities for low-income youth, at NFTE’s 15th Annual Salute to the Entrepreneurial Spirit Awards Dinner in New York City.
Anne W. McNulty, JBK Partners, introduced Marsha Ralls (right) at the Awards' Dinner
Ms. Ralls chaired NFTE Greater Washington DC’s most successful Dare to Dream gala to date, helping the organization raise nearly $1 million to support its work in low-income communities.
Kriston responds to my rock here (missing the point a little, I think);
no more on this subject from me unless a get together is arranged somehow.
But I'm not sure that I'm not gonna twitch the next time that he reviews the gallery that he curated a show for.
Update: OK, OK... one more thing here.
Opportunity for artists with disabilities
Deadline: Friday, July 11, 2008
Sponsored by VSA arts and Volkswagen of America, Inc. Open to emerging artists with disabilities, ages 16 -25, living within the U.S. Fifteen (15) artists will receive a total of $60,000 in cash awards. No entry fee.
"Green Light" challenges artists to pinpoint the motivation behind their work and the infinite possibilities that creativity provides. Eligible media include: paintings and drawings (oil, watercolor, acrylic, pencil or charcoal), fine art prints (lithographs, etching, intaglio, or woodcuts), photography, computer generated prints and two-dimensional mixed media - any media that may be represented in two-dimensions. Artwork should not exceed 60 inches in either direction.
New This Year: Sculpture and time-based media (video, film etc.) will also be considered. Sculpture should not exceed 24 inches in any direction. Fifteen (15) awardees will be honored at an awards ceremony on Capitol Hill during the Fall of 2008, and their artwork will be displayed in a nation-wide touring exhibition that debuts at the Smithsonian during September 2008.
To learn more about last year’s program, visit: www.vsarts.org/driven For additional information and to access the application, please visit: www.vsarts.org/VWcall or contact Jennifer Wexler at 800.933.8721 x3885; email: JCWexler@vsarts.org. Alternative formats of the application are available upon request.