Oh, art. That magical, enigmatic practice that allows you to do anything you want in its name. You could shoot yourself, give birth to a child or lose your virginity for an audience, masturbate in a corner of a museum, or even inject yourself with horse plasma. Anything is fair game.
In Berlin, two students at the Berlin University of the Arts have built a makeshift guillotine that they say they will use to kill a live lamb if the internet wills it so. The artists have set up a website, Die Guillotine, where you can watch a looping video of the guillotine and decide whether or not you want the lamb to die.
There is also a short documentary about the project, which shows the artists smoking a hookah and building their contraption.
The project has garnered a lot of international attention, with more than one million votes already submitted. As of 3:00 p.m. on Friday, the "nein" votes are outnumbering the "ja" votes 594,609 to 476,089, so the lamb might just make it after all. Still, knowing the internet, and the vitriol it can tend to spew, things might turn around. There are still more than two and a half weeks left to vote.
Reuters reported that university spokesmen have distanced themselves from the project, claiming that the students have no plans to kill the lamb even if the "ja" votes win out. Representatives from the Berlin University of the Arts did not return requests for comment.
When asked for comment on the project, a spokesperson for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) submitted the following statement to The Huffington Post:
Even if these students are committing a hoax rather than slaying a sheep, their 'performance' isn't artistic but instead a publicity grab that they may not realize could inspire other wannabe artists to follow through with copycat killings. The one positive thing it has done, though, is spur debate about the slaughter of animals, which takes place out of sight and off the plate. With any luck, this incident may actually cause some people to consider going vegetarian.
Certainly, this is not the first outrageous act committed in the name of art in the past few years, and hardly the first involving the questionable treatment of animals. However, it might be the first project to place the atrocity's outcome in the hands of the internet-at-large.
Dutch artist Katinka Simonse (AKA "Tinkebell") has been using dead animals in her art for a few years now, sparking worldwide outrage and petitions begging her to stop. She once killed her own pet cat and turned it into a handbag, rather than having it euthanized at the vet, though she told the Huffington Post that the other animals she uses in her art had all died in a "natural way."
"Most people walk around with leather bags and shoes," she said in an interview (below) with AVRO public broadcasting. "And there is not a single cow who had a good life before it became a bag." She says when she walks by a Burger King in town, she wants to "puke" just thinking about "an animal that came from a factory and what happened to it."
Some of Simonse's hate mail was collected into a book, "Dearest Tinkebell," which she claims contains only 1 percent of the letters she's received during her career.
In San Francisco, the artist Tom Otterness was recently denied one of two sculpture commissions because in 1977 he "bought a shelter dog, tied it to a fence, and shot it on camera." Though he has repeatedly apologized for this project, it continues to resurface and anger animal rights advocates.
If you answered 'yes' above, how would you vote? Let the lamb live, or not? Let us know in the comments.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story stated that Dutch artist Tinkebell killed her own animals to use for her art projects, which some animal rights groups have claimed as truth. Though she did, in fact, kill her own cat, she tells the Huffington Post that she does not "kill dogs or chicks or any animal, but only work with roadkills and animals that died in a natural way."