Monday, December 11, 2006

Pigs of all Sorts

One of the things that seemed to come up in every conversation this trip, including long distance conversations with my husband, was a piece that NPR did on the book Female Chauvanist Pig by Ariel Levy. I am so anxious to read it, I ordered a newly published softcover version that is probably waiting in my mail pile at home.

One of the more memorable things seen during the last week was a series of fascinating canvases by Wim Delvoye at Emmanuel Perrotin gallery, and again at the fair. I was instantly jealous of the surface on the "painting", which was completely covered with hair. I marveled at the way the hair "grew" out of the surface, something I have done in my own work. Knowing how painstaking it is, I thought, "wow, this guy is really on to something..... this looks so natural". Then I picked up the press release:

Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin is pleased to present an exhibition of Belgian artist Wim Delvoye’s tattooed pigskins. Delvoye has been tattooing pigs since the 1990s, and in 2004, he set up the Art Farm, establishing his presence in China. Delvoye explains, "The idea for Art Farm is not only to produce art but to harvest art, for me it's the beginning of making art pieces that are developed in a very biological way." While the tattoos themselves do not contain specific messages, Delvoye says that, as pigs increase in size, the tattoos stretch and fade—a visual reminder of human dreams and wishes that have faded. Delvoye uses the art of tattooing as a means of critiquing human desire and ambitions.

The pigs on the Art Farm are sedated before they get tattooed and are gently raised until their natural deaths; usually well past six months, when most farm pigs are slaughtered. Collectors can buy the pigs live and pay for their keep as "foster parents" or purchase tattooed skins of pigs that had passed. "The Art Farm is a real enterprise and by selling, eventually, the skins, the whole thing gets financed and I can go on," said Delvoye, who has pushed other artistic boundaries with previous works.
When the pigs complete their life cycle, their skins will be canvases that remind the audience of the dreams that once were important enough to be engraved on the skin. The stretched pigskins are like raw canvases, each one possessing an original tattoo such as, hearts, skulls, anchors, swords, eagles, and a woman's name—reminiscent of Harley Davidson motorcycle gangs. Mortality is a primary theme in the pigskins. "Tattoos remind you of death. It's leaving something permanent on something non-permanent," says Delvoye. "Even when tattooing flowers, there is a morbid side to the activity."

Delvoye has continued to astonish the art world with works that test the conventional limits of art for more than fifteen years. He has gone beyond art's traditional mediums, incorporating technology, biology, and an understanding of today's market economy and culture into the scope of his art, in the process creating masterpieces such as “Cloaca,” a machine that produces real feces; “Caterpillar,” a sculptural imitation of a construction excavator intricately carved from corten steel and perforated with Gothic filigree; and “Marble Floors,” photographs of meticulously cut salami, chorizo, mortadella and ham, arranged in geometric patterns based on Italian Baroque and Islamic motifs.

Cheater. : ) Here are the pieces in question (scroll to the bottom). You can see more of his work here. The pieces are much more disturbing when they are stretched on the wall than when they are on the pig, I think. I have seen other things that this guy has done, and some of them are brilliant. There is no doubt that he will go down in art history as being a pioneer. I cannot pass judgement, for I have not seen the reactions of the sedated pigs being stuck with a needle a million times for an artist's "cool idea". I will say that it is a line I would not cross. (Yes, I know.... "which is why I am not showing at Perrotin")



Blogger Kate said...

I realize now that it is the stretching of the pigskins that is disturbing, because of the visual proximity to human skin. Seems trophy like, no too far off from furs and other luxury items that require the skinning of animals.

1:04 PM  

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