Letters to the Editor

Killing for ‘art’

February 21, 2012


To the editor:

As a transplanted Lawrencian, I have several thoughts regarding the exhibit “Story of Chickens – A Revolution.” First, this exhibit is not a revolution; it upholds the entrenched idea there is only one ending between a human and certain animals. This is simply not true. A revolutionary exhibit would allow the chickens to live at the end. Lawrencians are smart enough to have the discussion without actually killing the animals.

Second, it doesn’t show where most people’s meat comes from. I am willing to bet the majority don’t stop buying meat from supermarkets because of this. To force people to make the connection between the individual chickens they come to know and the meat they eat, the exhibit should conclude with a visit to a slaughterhouse.

Third, this sets a precedent for killing animals for “art.” Killing an unwilling living creature for your personal message is not art; it’s obscenity. Finally, these chickens, as the “artist” herself points out, are beautiful animals. I’ve been around enough animals to know they feel pleasure in their lives. There is pure ugliness in holding these living beings down and forcibly slaughtering them while they struggle for their lives simply to present a message.

If the only way humans can learn to respect animal life must end in the death of the animals, then God help the human race. The best thing that could happen, if this project is not canceled, is that people simply don’t attend any part.


Ken Lassman 6 years, 2 months ago

From the American Heritage dictionary--art: "The conscious use of the imagination in the production of objects intended to be contemplated or appreciated as beautiful, as in the arrangement of forms, sounds, or words."

It's art. Folks are contemplating the heck out of this arrangement of hens, and in the tradition of true performance art or guerrilla theater, it has made many examine their normally held preconceptions about ordinary things. It has done so way beyond the artist's intent to examine our relationship to the food we eat, which is mostly an artifact of the media/Journal World's entrance into the scene.

Congratulations, Amber.

And as far as folks who mix up killing for food with animal cruelty, how do you explain Quentin Tarantino's movies? Why is his gratuitous violence art?

jafs 6 years, 2 months ago

You do understand that Tarantino's movies don't have anybody actually killing anybody else, right?

Ken Lassman 6 years, 2 months ago

So it's art because nobody actually died despite all the simulated blood, violence and gore? My point is that it's OK to simulate violence and killing as part of the artistic process, while it's not OK to explore the necessary dying that occurs in everyday food preparation, which is the existential reality of every animal on the planet? And why is that not a topic worthy of the artistic endeavor?

Or how about Eat, Drink, Man, Woman, where I recall some real chickens are really butchered, and all kinds of food is sliced up, chopped up, and otherwise turned into food that is consumed or thrown away? That's a perfectly lovely movie that uses food preparation as one of the palettes (pardon the pun) for artistic expression.

jafs 6 years, 2 months ago

No, it's not killing for the sake of art.

As a long time vegetarian, I feel pretty strongly about killing animals, and that we shouldn't be doing it if/when we don't have to.

This sort of "art" is a completely unnecessarily killing of them, so I oppose it.

If somebody lived out in the woods, and had little money, and had to kill animals to survive, I would grudgingly accept that as necessary - the rest of us can get perfectly good, healthy (in many cases, healthier) alternatives.

Ken Lassman 6 years, 2 months ago

It is killing for the sake of living. Even vegetarians kill for this reason, and this existential reality is a rich topic for both aesthetic and artistic exploration.

You have an aesthetic and perhaps ecological preference for killing living creatures that don't have animate consciousness, which you are certainly entitled to. What this artist is exploring is the connection between that piece of chicken in your yu hsiang chicken dish and the living, breathing bird that you can feed, touch and be pecked by. This is the nature of reality, and just because you don't like it doesn't change it.

If you think killing animals is only for poor folks living in the woods then you, too are promoting the kind of awareness that this artist is raising, i.e. being acutely aware of the relationship between animals and the animals who eat them. Both you and the artist are suggesting that folks have an honest, clear-eyed understanding of where our food comes from. The only difference between you and me is that I think that it is healthy for folks of any income and living anywhere to have this clear-eyed understanding, and I thank this artist for bringing up this possibility for many city dwellers who would not otherwise have this chance.

jafs 6 years, 2 months ago

Well, when you say it that way, I have a different response.

I also believe that people should know where their food comes from, and not be insulated from that by many layers.

Plants, fruits and vegetables are not properly called living "creatures" as far as I understand the term - they are living entities of some sort.

It's also a moral concern, not just an esthetic or ecological one.

Ken Lassman 6 years, 2 months ago

If you eat a plant, fruit, or vegetable, its life as a plant is as gone just as much as if you had cut down a redwood tree. They will no longer be a plant, fruit or vegetable and are incapable of reproducing themselves. You have taken its life even though it has no consciousness. You are indebted to that plant for sustaining your own life, just as you would be to a chicken if you had eaten that instead. This is the reality of life.

jafs 6 years, 2 months ago

Yes, I agree, we are unable to sustain life without eating organic food.

But, that doesn't make any other distinctions invalid or unimportant, in my view.

jafs 6 years, 2 months ago

But, the lte makes a good point as well - if they really want to show people about where their food comes from, there are existing slaughterhouses/etc. that they should film.

Ken Lassman 6 years, 2 months ago

Once again, that's a different project than the artist is exploring. It's like saying that Van Gogh should have painted Edvard Munch's "the scream" instead of "wheat field with crows" to signal the end of his life. Ultimately, this kind of comment says more about the viewer than providing insight into the art.

And once again, this artist is definitely showing where food comes from, perhaps not in the way that the majority of chicken eaters get their chicken, but certainly in a way that they could get it if they chose to raise their own or buy it from a local "free range" farmer. Most importantly, it puts the viewer into the same existential relationship with their food as would an art project of your design only moreso than a photo essay on slaughterhouses would do.

jafs 6 years, 2 months ago

Let's say you want to do an art project about war - which would be better, to find footage of existing and past wars and show them to people, or to create a new one and film it?

In my world, it's better not to create a new one.

Similarly with this project - there's plenty of inhumane treatment and killing of animals around to film and show people, in order to educate them.

And, especially since most people don't get their food in this way, that sort of project would be better, in my view, if that's the goal.

Ken Lassman 6 years, 2 months ago

Whoa, killing an animal for food can be done humanely, as can eating it. If you cannot agree that this can be done as humanely as killing a plant to eat it, then we have a real disagreement.

This conversation cannot proceed if you cannot see that sustaining life by definition means to kill and eat another life. You seem to be blind to the fact that this is the nature of this project: to explore exactly what this means as far as eating another animal.

If you equate all meat eating as unnecessary cruelty and to be avoided at all costs, then you're certainly entitled to this bias, but understand that you are a real minority in this belief and that perfectly reasonable and ethical people do not share this belief with you.

jafs 6 years, 2 months ago

Also, I'm not a big fan of the increasing violence in movies and on tv/video games either.

I tend to not go to those sorts of movies, or watch too much of those sorts of shows, and I don't play video games.

In my view, they're desensitizing Americans to violence, and blurring the lines between reality/fantasy, and those aren't good things.

Ken Lassman 6 years, 2 months ago

As does hermetically sealed, pre-packaged processsed food that blurs and even removes any understanding of its origins, whether it be plant or animal. If this is all that is ever experienced, the person is desensitized and lessened as a full human being living on this planet, and loses an essential component of nourishment..

gr 6 years, 2 months ago

As long as they are not...... Painted!

gr 6 years, 2 months ago

"Third, this sets a precedent for killing animals for “art.” Killing an unwilling living creature for your personal message is not art; it’s obscenity. "

Ok. What's your thoughts on killing a "willing" living creature for art?

Shane Garrett 6 years, 2 months ago

Never and I mean Never name a pet that is destined to end up on your plate at dinner time. (advice from a former child farm rabbit raiser.) So cute and cuddly as bunnies, when grown up a little; so tasty when fried.

Mike Ford 6 years, 2 months ago

this is Lawrence.....27 square miles of intelligence.....surrounded by what????

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