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Behaving Badly: Animals and the Ethics of Participatory Art

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This article examines the artistic and curatorial strategy of inviting harm to animals in participatory art installations. Marco Evaristti's controversial Helena (2000), at the Trapholt Museum, demonstrates how the use and mistreatment of animals in art can generate intense debates over animal rights and artistic freedom. The modernist space of the museum, with its presumption of autonomy, can become, in these instances, a site of moral exceptionalism that produces problematic social and legal behaviour in the audience. The deliberate inclusion of animals in provocative and threatening situations poses an ethical quandary in both art and society at large, as well as raising difficult questions about conduct and responsibility within museums.
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Keywords: Marco Evaristti; animal rights; animals in art; art and the law; ethics in art exhibitions; participatory exhibitions

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Moore College of Art & Design

Publication date: December 5, 2012

More about this publication?
  • The Journal of Curatorial Studies is an international, peer-reviewed publication that explores the cultural functioning of curating and its relation to exhibitions, institutions, audiences, aesthetics and display culture. The journal takes a wide perspective in the inquiry into what constitutes "the curatorial." Curating has evolved considerably from the connoisseurship model of arranging objects to now encompass performative, virtual and interventionist strategies. While curating as a spatialized discourse of art objects remains important, the expanded cultural practice of curating not only produces exhibitions for audiences to view, but also plays a catalytic role in redefining aesthetic experience, framing cultural conditions in institutions and communities, and inquiring into constructions of knowledge and ideology.
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