Theater of the World: Animals, Ethics, and Museums in Art and China after 1989

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China's Rise and Globalization

Along with China's rise to great prominence in the world, globalization began to take hold there. However, the Chinese saw an economic boom later in the 2000s as well as political persecution that continued after Tiananmen. It's significant to note that artists of the time used their creations to express the social events taking place at the time. The artists incorporated the animals in their creations and presentations in an effort to show the brutality with which some people were treated in the nation. For instance, the magnificent rotunda created in 1959 by Frank Lloyd that is the undulating black dragon signified the period when China swerved from the use of the bicycle to the use of the vehicle in their pursuit to grow economically.

Avant-garde Art and Economic Activities

Pointedly, the artworks also depict the roiling economic activities that took place in China marking the country’s scramble to make herself a global power. In fact, the avant-garde artists in an attempt to make sense of the complex happenings turned to the conceptual art. They experimented with various techniques and materials that included video, body art, and performance hence coming up a show like the Guggenheim one. The artistic works included the Document of Hygiene by Zhang in 1991, which showed an obsessive soaping and then rinsing a live chicken that was put in a bowl. The work was meant to mock and ridicule the government of China for the diktat of cleanliness for which it had been known. Notably, the manner in which the artists used the animals in their works show some degree of lack of respect, portrays their feeling of unworthiness to the animals, their uncaring to the same and also the indifference they have towards how the animals feel when used in such a manner.

Controversy Surrounding Animal Rights

This relation to the animals dramatically fuels the controversy that is pictured in the works of the Chinese artists of whether they should be exhibited or abolished because of their indifference to the rights of the animals and animal cruelty in general. Markedly, the government of China is precisely portrayed as handling the people in a similar manner in which the artists use the animals. The people were mistreated by their government, and instead of offering them protection, the reverse happened when some of the citizens were killed for example in the protests that were in Tiananmen Square. Evidently, just as the emotions of the animals and their unwillingness to participate in the exhibitions are ignored, that is the same way the government also ignored the feelings of the people to the extent of scattering protestors who were expressing their emotions and needs.

The Government's Ruthlessness

The paintings of the protesters fleeing and the penguins bleeding in stretchers done by Dian in 1995 depicted the ruthlessness by which the government handled the grievances of the citizens. In fact, the army when deployed to control the protests shot at the protesters, and that is shown by the bleeding penguins on the stretchers. Besides, the painting that shows two Chinese men while burning a rat by Liu in 1995 also showed the helplessness of the citizens as they are mistreated by the powerful government.

The Guggenheim's Response and Defense

The Guggenheim museum reacted to the controversy and threats of violence by removing two videos that featured live animals and sculpture including lizards and insects. Further, they also withdrew the art of dogs that cannot touch each other. Later, the museum reacted by defending the exhibition as a challenge of the provocative international artwork that both examines and critiques the government s as the systems of both power and control. They addressed the absence of the works as one of the tragic things in the modern society since they had to withhold works of art as opposed to their commitment in presenting artistic works that represent a multiplicity of voices. The museum indicated the removal of the works by their withdrawal from the sites of the institution. The remnants of each of the work that involves the mere paints without live animals sustain the Theatre of the World, and the absence of the live animals reduces the intensity of the works' criticizing power control.

Inhumane Treatment of Animals

The works are inhumane towards the animals because in as much as they survive by eating each other in their usual environments, caging them narrows their survival and brings a lot of fatigue. In fact, even if they do not engage like in the case of the two dogs, they are both fatigued and distressed that may cause their death. Therefore, even with the freedom and commitment that the museum had towards portraying the critical works of the artist and the intensity of the same when presented in their real forms. It is notable that the only option of addressing the cruelty of the animals that were involved in the exhibition works was just to withdraw the live animals from the exhibitions.

March 15, 2023


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