Lately, I received an email condemning the actions of the artist, Guillermo Vargas Jiménez, known as the artist name "Habacuc".
According to the email, in 2007, the Costa Rican "artist" took an abandoned dog from the streets, and then tied the dog to a very short rope to the wall of an art gallery in Managua, placed a pan of food on the other side of the room beyond his reach, and left him there to slowly die of hunger and thirst - as part of an "art" installation.
This was a very disturbing news to me as I am an artist myself, and love animals. So I did some search on the web to find out more about this "art" and came across variety of stories about this "art" exhibition.
This is what the "artist" said originally;
I knew the dog died on the following day from lack of food. During the inauguration, I knew that the dog was persecuted in the evening between the houses of aluminium and cardboard in a district of Managua. 5 children who helped to capture the dog received 10 bonds of córdobas for their assistance. During the exhibition some people requested the freedom of the small dog, which the artist refused. The name of the dog was Natividad, and I let him die of hunger in the sight of everyone, as if the death of a poor dog was a shameless media show in which nobody does anything but to applaud or to watch disturbed. In the place that the dog was exposed remain a metal cable and a cord. The dog was extremely ill and did not want to eat, so in natural surroundings it would have died anyway; thus they are all poor dogs: sooner or later they die or are killed.
Then he changed his statement several times depending on the climate of public opinion. In the end, Juanita Bermúdez, director of the Códice Gallery, insisted the dog escaped after just one day and didn't die at the gallery.
Surprisingly, the prestigious Centralamerican Biennial of Art decided that this insensible act - whether the dog really died or not - was art, and Guillermo Vargas Habacuc has been invited to repeat his cruel actions in "Bienal Centroamericana Honduras 2008."
It seems that no one really knows whether the dog died at the gallery or ran away from there. However the pictures are enough to make a judgement. The dog clearly needed loving attention and tender care, not to be displayed as a piece of "art". This poor creature did not deserve this, nor any other animal on this planet. The Managua exhibition certainly attracted worldwide attention and many people believe it to have been an act of cruelty rather than art.
It might be quite difficult to judge what is art and what is not. If you label all the disturbing images as "not art", then what about the paintings by Goya, or those by artists involving in so called "dark art"? But at the same time, if you accept the starving dog as a piece of art, what about the photographs of victims taken by a murderer or a rapist? In my opinion, if the art physically hurt or harm something or somebody, then it should not be called art, but then, if Guillermo Vargas Habacuc did not leave the dog to starve to death, was it art?
Where should we draw the line?