I wrote to reknowned artist Sue Coe, who is known for her works of societal commentary including several books and numerous works on animal rights (many prints of which are sold to benefit Farm Sanctuary in NY) about the "artistic" statement of the accused "arist" Jesse Powers.
Out of courtesy and respect for the fact that she responded personally (and in less than a day) and since I haven't asked/received permission to share it, I have removed her email address as well as her CC list on this email, but I assure the rest of the email appears as it was sent to me.
----- Original Message -----
From: Sue Coe
Cc: [Removed to protect privacy]
Sent: Tuesday, July 24, 2001 4:49 PM
Subject: life before art
To whom it may concern:
The majority of cases involving animal abuse/torture and death, involve white males, of all economic groups, in their early teens through to mid twenties.
I read that these men, were making a comment about the meat industry, by taking a cat, who appears nameless, and with no guardian, and skinning this cat alive, and making a video documentation of that act, as art. And that the cat, took a long time to die.
As I do not know the complexities/contradictions of the motives behind these men, I could not say whether they need counselling and/ or incarceration. There are laws, that protect animals, against cruelty, such as being skinned alive. (pathetic though they are, at least they exist) In slaughterhouses animals are routinely skinned alive, without being properly stunned. However, the action of the slaughterhouse worker is rarely sadistic, (let alone artistic) because of continuous line speed up, instrumented by the Reagan administration, workers cannot keep up with the number of animals being stunned. Many workers have risked their jobs, and sometimes their lives, by raising concerns about the suffering of the animals beings slaughtered.
Members of the animal rights movement all over the world have been documenting slaughtering plants, and factory farms, for sometime now, many serving prison sentences, for trespassing, and releasing/rescuing the animals.
There is much video in evidence documenting this. In countries like Korea, cats and dogs, are slaughtered whilst conscious - for 'meat'. Farm Sanctuary a rescue and legislative organization to which I belong, has video footage, of an alive cow, being dragged by chains, to the slaughterhouse, because she is a 'downed animal' and being her skin coming off, on the road. (she cries, and tries to raise her head, as she is being dragged) If the gallery needs footage of animals being flayed alive, they can go to the many activists web sites and organizations struggling to change the lives and deaths of animals.
Whether slaughtering an animal, to make a point, and calling it 'art' or not art, is besides the point.
Vivisectionists, say they are helping the human race, by cutting up animals, is that healing? Slaughterhouses, say they are providing us with food by killing, is that nourishment? Hunters say that that they are protecting wild places, by killing, is that sport? Child exploiters say they are giving a wage to children that would normally starve, is that charity? The Nazis said that the tattoos of their flayed victims, were suitable ornaments, is that art? Shouting Fire! in a crowded theatre, when there is no fire, is that freedom of speech?
We all have excuses and justifications for what is socially acceptable and rewarded behavior. There is nothing 'punk' or avant guard, about killing - (unless butchers become artists)....historically both those movements, struggled against a corrupted dominant class. As is now, the dominant class, rewards killing, and ignores the victims. Bourgeoise culture, embraces the newness of shock value, and glamorizes individuality, whilst all life, as a class, on this planet, is being sacrificed for profit.
We have to look into our power relationships with others, just as a small cat has no power to prevent his/her own death at human hands, just as this gallery and the artists, are tiny and insignificant as compared to the mass killings of the meat industry. Yet there is a commonality in thinking. A murky type of acceptance of taking life.
It is not a question of do animals have rights? But a question of - what gives us the right, to take life? Where do we draw the line? Hopefully cases such as this, take us out of the mire of the liberal apologist realm of what is art, and infantile rebellion - and into a debate which does not silently collude with killing.
Billions of animals, are already murdered every year, in the oceans, and slaughterhouses, and laboratories, and forests, it is not necessary to make galleries and museums, into abattoirs too, even for only one black and white and grey cat.
"Auschwitz begins wherever someone looks at a slaughterhouse and thinks: they're only animals."
Some Sue Coe's works may be viewed (and ordered) at: