Two students in Germany have provoked outrage by threatening to slaughter a sheep in the name of art. Ein Experiment der Künstler Iman Rezai und Rouven Materne (‘an experiment of the artists Iman Rezai and Rouven Materne’) asks the question “should this sheep be killed?”, and maintains a countdown to the day of the possible execution.
The first of two videos (see below) released by the pair, shows the painstaking construction of their guillotine which is painted in a gaudy array of bright neon colours.
The sheep is then menacingly presented to the apparatus, and the heavy blade is hoisted to the top of the frame.
Currently the balance of opinion lies in favor of sparing the animal, but the two men have said they are duty bound to slay the lamb if ‘democratic’ opinion swings in the opposite direction. This, despite facing prosecution under German laws preventing the unnecessary killing of animals.
The proposition has invoked a wave of revulsion, with several people commenting that only vegetarians have the right to decry this. This is clearly preposterous; there is no equivalence between sanctioning the killing of livestock for food and the senseless murder of an animal as some sideshow stunt parading under the banner of ‘art’. By that score, it would seem that anything goes if the end is art.
It is also highly objectionable to justify murder as a ‘duty’ on the basis of a VolksWahl (people’s choice). Majorities can be wrong. Need we be reminded of the ghastly but logical conclusion of such a callous, mechanical and casual disregard for life?
Rezai and Materne have posted a second video which betrays an almost clinical fetishism.
This depicts the two students dressed in white overalls, with their instrument of death erected within a room lined with plastic sheets on the floor and the walls. The sheep is manhandled behind the guillotine, and for two and a half minutes the blade is seen and heard to drop on a constant and hypnotic loop.
Am I alone in seeing similarities with a certain genre of ‘animated GIFs’ that exploit the repetition of a short looped video extract for a form of gratification?
UPDATE (Wed 16 May, 2012): With the deadline set to expire tomorrow, an eleventh hour saviour from the US has stepped in to buy the guillotine for $2.3M. That is one valuable sheep! A spokesperson for the buyer said, “He bought it because of the art. Also, it is a fact that it might be a way to save the sheep’s life.”
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