I expect that a lot of my readers heard the news this week of Bart Jansen’s dead-cat-helicopter. http://gu.com/p/3848z
Jansen’s piece has incited repulsion in so many, whereas others consider it a legitimate piece of art. After reading the comments on one news site – often the most interesting part – I was not surprised to see so many condemning this man as ‘sick’ and questioning the integrity of his work. Although I expect that this type of news attracts the attention of some angry vegetarians I would guess that the majority of these people were not that way inclined. So why the outcry?
The use of taxidermy in art is not an original idea with artists such as Polly Morgan, Les Deux Garcons, and Claire Morgan using animals on a much larger scale than Jansen but without such exposure. It is of course no news that the average Briton has an attachment to the familiar; most of us have been exposed to some form of traditional taxidermy in museums and in many cases these animals have been hunted. Orville the cat was hit by a car. It would seem that the repulsion is provoked by the absurdity of the art rather than any moral issue. I do not believe that a nation of omnivores could be so concerned for one artist’s beloved pet. The concern stems from the unfamiliarity of it.
This lack of perspective is symptomatic of a culture with a meat industry that can sell poorly kept, slaughtered chickens as ‘free-range’ without much resistance. When I discussed the issue with a friend of mine, who works with humane taxidermy in her own art (second-hand or from animals who were not hunted or slaughtered), she commented that ‘so many animals are dying and suffering all the time and these people are complaining about someone making fun art from a pet he loved that inevitably died naturally.’ Ask a vegetarian or a vegan and they will have a much more levelled opinion on the issue for they know what a suffering animal looks like.
P.S. thank you to Fiona Jones for the taxidermy artist information.