Adel Abdessemed Exhibit Spurs Bill to Stop the Harm of Animals in the Name of Art:
A committee in San Francisco’s city government has introduced a bill with the hope of stopping the abuse, suffering, or death of animals in the name of art. The proposal is a response to a video installation by Adel Abdessemed which involved documenting traditional methods of food production in Mexico. The installation contained graphic imagery involving the death of six farm animals. The installation, which went on display at the San Francisco Art Institute, was canceled abruptly after the artist and others involved with the exhibit received death threats from animal rights extremists. The exhibit involved several sponsors, including the Andy Warhol Foundation.
The bill is still in the process of being drafted. If the bill passes artists who have harmed animals-- and anyone funding or housing the work --will be charged with a misdemeanor or felony. My understanding is that the bill will make it clear that artists can be criminally charged even if the work is ‘created’ in another country where harm to animals is not considered an offense. I have also read that it will be illegal for artists to take advantage of conditions that permit the death of an animal. For example, if the bill passes it would be illegal for an artist to photograph or record a pet being euthanized by a veterinarian-- assuming a vet would allow that in the first place.
Supporters of the bill are concerned that artists will create works that involve harming animals simply to gain the same media exposure that Abdessemed accomplished-- regardless if he wanted it or not. I think the bill is a great move. However, I’m sure there will be some buzz against this bill before everything is said and done. It all depends on what exactly the bill entails-- and how it develops over time. I can see how the bill could end up-- or trigger-- more harm than good if it is not carefully observed.
For example, politicians hoping to win the favor of animal rights groups and other supporters of the bill may push the bill beyond its original intention. That is why people need to pay attention to how this bill shapes. You never know what direction a new bill can take. Will it prevent hunters from having ’trophies’ mounted? Will it prevent grannies from having Fido stuffed? Are those not forms of expression in their own right? Will the bill be strictly against artists who utilize images of abused, suffering, or dead animals that they have caused or taken advantage of as a means of expressing an idea / concept… or will it result in fictional depictions of abused, suffering, or dead animals being illegal as well? I don’t think people will be happy if a student ends up in a youth detention center because he or she drew a cartoon of a dead animal in his or her notebook.
Again, I think the bill is a good step if it is done in the right way. However, politicians tend to drop the ball at the worst of times. At the same time I realize that some people feel that attacking any form of expression is wrong no matter what ethical standards are violated. What are your thoughts on this bill and the Adel Abdessemed exhibit?
(On a side note, I contacted the David Zwirner gallery in April hoping to schedule an interview with Adel Abdessemed. I wanted to offer him the chance to give his side of the story and to discuss his motivation for the installation. Unfortunately, the Press Assistant for David Zwirner informed me that Adel was not interested.)
Take care, Stay true,