I came across a petition shared by Alternative Outfitters online, ‘Bring Animal Killing Artist, Katinka Simonse To Justice‘. From the petition:
Katinka Simonse, a 31 year old female living in Amsterdam, has been killing innocent animals and getting away with it. These horrible acts have been looked over because she killed these animals in the name of “Art”. Katinka owns many animals and keeps them in horrible conditions. She owns 60 hamsters in balls and remote controlled guineas pigs. She puts day old male chicks through paper shredders. She writes numbers on the snails in her garden to keep count of them. The act that has angered most people about this case is, in 2004 Katinka Simonse killed her very own cat and then made it into a handbag.
Killing animals for “art” is certainly not a new concept. In fact, it’s something that I wrote about in 2009 for True/Slant.
At that time, over 14,000 artists, art historians, art curators and visual art professionals believed it was a violation of free speech to criminalize the depiction of animal cruelty in works of art – especially for profit (ie: exhibiting in a gallery for sale). The College Art Association (CAA), filed a friend-of-the-court brief with the National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC) for a Supreme Court hearing in 2009 that was to revisit legislation which would make it illegal to sell depictions of cruelty to animals.
Strangely, the legislation was struck down. From CAA News:
On April 20, 2010, the US Supreme Court struck down, on First Amendment grounds, a federal statute (18 U.S.C. § 48 ) that criminalized the commercial sale, dissemination, and possession of depictions of animal cruelty, as well as of acts showing the wounding or killing of animals.
So, courtesy of our First Amendment rights, we have:
Artist Adel Abdessened opened an exhibit called “Don’t Trust Me” at the San Fransisco Art Institute. The exhibit included six video screens showing a loop of various non-human animals being bludgeoned to death with a sledgehammer next to a brick wall. The non-human animals included a goat, pig, sheep, ox, and a horse. The exhibit was finally taken down after thousands of people protested.
There is a woman in Pennsylvania who gives her cats body piercing so that she can sell them as “Gothic Kitties”? She defends her position saying she, “…didn’t intend to do anything cruel and that she didn’t see any difference between piercing a human and piercing a cat”.
A Florida college senior was charged with animal cruelty when he/she dipped 40 live baby mice into resin, then cut them up into cubes for an art project.
But exploitative art isn’t limited to the US, it’s a global issue.
BMEzine is the world’s largest online body modification community. They have an entire online gallery of modified companion animals. Oh sure, they have the standard bullshit disclaimer saying:
NOTE: BME does not condone the torture and abuse of animals in any way (although we urge you to consider whether these pictures are any worse than torturing, killing, and eating an animal, or worse than cutting a dog’s tail off for looks). These pictures are presented for documentary purposes only and WE DO NOT RECOMMEND OR SUGGEST PIERCING OR OTHERWISE MODIFYING ANIMALS IN ANY WAY!
Really? The mere presence of a large collection of photos displaying piercings and tattoos is only going to spur interest and encourage such behavior.
Then there’s Damien Hirst’s work. One of his most famous pieces is The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living. It basically consists of a shark in a vitrine, preserved in formaldehyde. Or, if sharks aren’t your thing, there’s Away from the Flock. Which is a sheep in a glass tank, preserved in formaldehyde. Then, the ever original artist produced Mother and Child Divided. This time the work consisted of a cow and her calf sliced in half and put in a glass tank, preserved in formaldehyde.
Wim Delvoye tattoos pigs in Beijing for a living. He is known for tattooing Louis Vuitton logos, various works, smiley faces, mythical creatures, and more on the backs of the pigs. Then the pigs are sold for thousands of dollars to collectors, who either keep them as companion animals or purchase the tattooed skin of the dead pigs.
Nathalia Edenmont, a Russian artist, kills cats, mice, chickens and rabbits for her surreal still life photographs. Wetterling Gallery in Stockholm was one of the first to show Edenmont’s work. They defended their decision saying,
Most people who see Nathalia’s pictures for the first time are impressed by how beautiful they are….Slowly you realize that the animal is dead, that the animal has died for the sake of the picture…Nathalia’s pictures…are so beautiful – and the insight into the reality behind them gives rise to thoughts of people’s shallowness and double standards. Many of us eat meat, wear leather or use make-up that has been tested on animals, without arousing especially strong reactions. But when a picture shows a dead rabbit, all hell breaks loose…There is nothing illegal in Nathalia’s art. She has killed the animals in as humane a way as possible. Has she been guilty of a moral crime? We do not think so.
Hermann Nitsch from Austria, who uses the entrails of lambs in his ritualistic performances and paints with the blood of non-human animals.
Now we can add Katinka Simonse to the list. Torturing and killing an animal should not be protected by the First Amendment of Free Speech. It’s ludicrous to claim rights while taking away the rights of others. What does it say about a society that has laws to protect people who want to inflict fear and pain on an animal for profit- oh, right. We do this every single day, but instead of calling it art- we call it food.
In art, in life, non-human animals deserve better. This is not a free speech issue. This is a matter of life, and of death.