The video, called “Dogs That Cannot Touch Each Other,” was created in 2003 by Sun Yuan and Peng Yu — a pair of Chinese artists who regularly collaborate. It began as a live performance — the dogs were “installed” on their treadmills in a museum in Beijing. (The Dodo reached out to the artists to ask where the dogs came from, and what happened to them after the performance, but has not gotten a response.)
A seven-minute video of one of the performances will be shown at the Guggenheim in October as part of an upcoming exhibition titled “Art and China after 1989: Theater of the World.” You can see stills from the video on the artists’ website.
The exhibit will also feature a piece by Huang Yong Ping titled “Theatre of the World” — a large turtle shell filled with live reptiles and insects who will fight and eat each other throughout the duration of the show. A New York pet store will be sending a continuous supply of animals to the museum to replace the dead ones.
Needless to say, animal lovers aren’t happy about the upcoming exhibit.
“Animal cruelty is a serious issue. I would expect a prestigious institution like the Guggenheim Museum to stand against cruelty,” artist Sophie Gamand told The Dodo. Gamand, the photographer who famously put pit bulls in flower crowns, has now started a social media protest using the hashtags #TortureIsNotArt and #GuggenheimTortureIsNotArt.
#TortureIsNotArt!!! Please repost and let's make some 🥊 (UPDATE: petition linked in my bio!). This WTF moment is brought to you by the @guggenheim. They are about to open an exhibit on Chinese contemporary art, and according to the @nytimes, one of their pieces is a seven-minute video (from 2003) with eight dogs on treadmills, facing each other, “one of (the artists’) less radical pieces”. I haven’t been able to see the video, but read several descriptions. Apparently the dogs (claimed to be pit bulls but the photos I saw showed a variety of mixes, including a female who had clearly been bred recently) are harnessed onto treadmills, then a cardboard barrier is lifted and the dogs face each other, “attempt to attack the ones they face, but they manage only to activate the treadmills, on which they run nonstop”. NY Times wrote: “The camera closes in on the animals as they face each other, running at high speed. The dogs are prevented from touching one another, a frustrating experience for animals trained to fight. The dogs get wearier and wearier, their muscles more and more prominent, and their mouths increasingly salivate”. 👉👉👉 Please, join my #TortureIsNotArt #GuggenheimTortureIsNotArt campaign (make sure to tag @Guggenheim), and help spread the message that we don’t want to see living creatures being tortured for entertainment. 👉👉👉 contact the Guggenheim Museum: 212 423 3500, email firstname.lastname@example.org. 👉👉👉 sign the petition in my bio . The piece is from 2003, so most likely none of these dogs are still alive. I don’t know if they were fighting dogs, so it bugs me that NY Times goes straight to that assumption just because they are "pit bulls", but that’s the least of my worries. I am pretty open-minded, and being an artist I understand the importance of expression, pushing boundaries, etc. Since yesterday I have tried to “see their side”, before posting this. But I have come to the conclusion that if you cannot spread your message without torturing living creatures, you’ve missed the point of creation entirely. In a way, I hope this is a publicity stunt from the Guggenheim… and we are about to give them publicity. 👎🙌 (check my Facebook post for links)
The museum calls Art and China “an interpretative survey of Chinese experimental art framed by the geopolitical dynamics attending the end of the Cold War, the spread of globalization, and the rise of China.”
Pamela Reid, vice president of the ASPCA’s anti-cruelty behavior team, told The Dodo her organization opposes the use of animals in art when the animals will be in pain or distress, or injured.
When it comes to depicting dogfighting in art, Reid said, “practices directly associated with this illegal activity should never be showcased unless with the explicit intention of eradicating dogfighting from our culture.”