Thursday, March 20, 2008


I am not 100% sure how to approach this without the onslaught of tears and emotion, but the pictures certainly reveal disturbingly enough the psychopathic lengths some people will go to call themselves artists. I don't even want this disgusting picture on my blog, except for the fact that it is important for people to feel outraged about this incident:

Costa-Rican "artist" [who shall herein be called "torturer" and a slew of other unkind words] Guillermo Vargas "Habacuc" tied a poor, stray dog up in a gallery space in Managua, Nicaragua, in late 2007, to let it starve to death as an exhibition, in view of people and within smelling range of food, but out of reach of anything but suffering.

According to Popgive, where I first learned about this story, the torturer paid two children to help him catch the dog on the street, and the dog later died in the gallery. After a deluge of messages and petitions, the gallery later denied that the dog had died, saying that it escaped, although that does not coincide with a later statement from the torturer, quoted as saying, "[The dog] was a very sick creature and would have died anyway. [citation]" There seems to be a bit of a contradiction in that statement.

Herein lies the contradiction:
The gallery, clearly stating the opposite of what viewers and witnesses have said, sent out a letter, in the form of a press-release, claiming that the dog had "escaped" and had not died:

"One of the exposed works consisted of presenting/displaying a famélico dog that Habacuc gathered off the street, and during the exhibition he appeared moored with a nylon cord, that was subject as well to another cord that hung of[f] two nails in a corner of the Gallery. Hab[a]cuc named the dog "Natividad" in tribute to the Nicaraguan Natividad Canda (24 years) that died devoured by two Rottweiler dogs in a factory of San Jose, Costa Rica, the dawn of Thursday 10 of November of 2005. The dog remained in the premises three days, from the 5 pm afternoon of Wednesday 15 of August [2007]. He was loose all along in the inner patio, except the 3 hours that the sample lasted, was fed regularly with dog food that the same Hab[a]cuc brought. Surprise, to the dawn of Friday 17, the dog escaped happening through the iron doors of the main entrance of the building, while the nocturnal watchman who finished feeding cleaned [...] the outer sidewalk [...]. [sic] [citation]"

Yet, Vargas, in his own words, stated this about the exhibit:

"Hello everyone. My name is Guillermo Vargas Habacuc. I am 50 years old and an artist. Recently, I have been criticized for my work titled "Eres lo que lees," which features a dog named Nativity. The purpose of the work was not to cause any type of infliction on the poor, innocent creature, but rather to illustrate a point. In my home city of San Jose, Costa Rica, tens of thousands of stray dogs starve and die of illness each year in the streets and no one pays them a second thought. Now, if you publicly display one of these starving creatures, such as the case with Nativity, it creates a backlash that brings out a bi[t] of hypocrisy in all of us. Nativity was a very sick creature and would have died in the streets anyway. [citation]"

Hmm... I think the hypocrisy of which he speaks starts here. Quite a contradiction from what the gallery owner was saying: she said the dog was fed, he says the dog was starved; she says the dog escaped, he quite clearly comments on the fact that the dog has died. Someone here is covering her butt and someone here is a delusional motherfucker.

I have also found another contradiction, while bobbing amongst blog entries and news stories to dig out the facts, and that is how Vargas acquired the dog. While Popgive says he paid two kids to help him catch the dog [and they got their information from this blog], another site I found said that "[He] allegedly found the dog tied up on a street corner in a poor Nicaragua barrio, [citation]" which of course raises the question of whether or not the dog may have belonged to someone. This thought, to me, just adds insult to injury, that there is the possibility he may have taken someone's dog in the name of "art."

According to For The Love of the Dog, a news/information blog about canines, Vargas' exhibition included a note spelled out in dog food that said, "You are what you read" and an incense burner burning marijuana and crack cocaine. Nice. Really fucking awesome.

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer says Vargas has a substantial career in Central America. He won an honorable mention in the Central American Biennial 2006 before this controversial dog torture exhibit took place. Post-exhibit there is an international outcry against him, along with a petition claiming over 300,000+ signatures screaming for the Biennial to change its plans to have him show again at the 2008 event.

This event has caused quite a stir and anti-animal cruelty groups are rightfully out to get justice for Vargas's actions. I say take the gallery down in flames, too. What kind of gallery -- a place of art, of richness in spirit and culture, of respect and understanding of beauty, pain, and suffering on levels unimaginable unless you behold them -- would allow this type of exhibit and allow it to be called art? Now granted, art is not something tangible you can define with borders or vocabulary words, and the torturer may be trying to make a point for a cause that is equally as painful and ugly as this torturous act itself, but neither of those justify the suffering and death of any innocent creature. As far as I am concerned, with 300,000+ people to back me on this one -- and I'm sure well more than that once their eyes have been opened -- this is animal cruelty in the ugliest degree, and I expect, no, demand, that this guy is prosecuted and the gallery is at least fined, if not prosecuted, as well. A gallery that would house such an awful act of torture does not deserve to call itself a gallery and does disrespect to those of us who create and respect true art.

Please, for the sake of art, sign the petition.

For information about where the gallery is located and sample letters you can write to the gallery in protest, please read the post and petitions here. This site has lots of information on it, including updates on where you can protest this "artist's" shows at other galleries, news on the topic from around the world, and a discussion about the treatment of the dog.

And if this post has prompted you to feel more than you wanted to feel for this poor, innocent dog, please consider adopting one of the thousands that need homes. Here are a couple places to start: Save A Dog, Abandoned Pet Rescue, Petfinder, Humane Society, find your own in a web search -- there are hundreds.

[Photo 1 credit link]
[Photo 2 credit link]