North Adams Transcript
When it comes to art materials, I feel like I’ve seen it all, and that proclamation includes paintings made from menstrual blood. They were gorgeous, actually. And that exhibit of freeze-dried, sliced-up Asians that went on tour in science museums certainly passed my "is it art?" test.
Those are controversial enough, but one Polish artist has pushed the boundaries so far that it even knocks the Mormon practice of baptizing Holocaust survivors after they are dead off of the No. 1 spot on the "Why would you think that’s okay?" list. Carl Michael von Hausswolff claims to have used the ashes of Holocaust victims in a 1989 painting (http://bit.ly/ZMcGfz). Actually, it’s worse -- he says that he stole the ashes from a crematorium in a Polish concentration camp.
Well, now complaints have been filed, investigations are being made and Mr. Bad Boy of the Arts is getting exactly the attention he must have craved. The thing is, he could be lying, couldn’t he? Is it even provable that he used the ashes in his painting? I’m not sure. But if he lied about the ashes, he gets all the action of Mr. Bad Boy of the Arts and none of the prosecution, and once again, the world has rewarded an ass.
I just don’t see how we are expected to treat other humans with decency when some people can’t even rouse up the same feelings for kittens. You’d think a kitten was beyond brutalizing -- it’s a kitten, right? Not so to this gross British pair, two teenage girls who took video of themselves throwing a kitten around a room and laughing uncontrollably (http://bit.ly/WENtN9). Disturbing enough, but then they posted the video to Facebook.
I don’t think it takes a newspaper columnist to explain the multiple levels of messed up here. And though I know one story does not make a societal trend, I always wonder with news stories, much like crime reports, how many other of the same incidents there are that have gone unreported.
For the record, the pair got punished by the court and the kitten survived.
Save the mice
Speaking of negativity -- which I obviously have been for the first half of this column -- this piece by an Australian academic caught my eye (http://bit.ly/U8cSkl), making a case for the brutality of vegetarianism. His point is that even a vegetarian meal is ripe with the blood of victims because grain yields plenty of animal deaths in the form of smaller animals. There is no bloodless food, really, just a type of bigotry toward rodents in which their lives don’t measure up in importance against, say, a cow.
The piece makes a strong case and concludes, "Relying on grains and pulses brings destruction of native ecosystems, significant threats to native species and at least 25 times more deaths of sentient animals per kilogram of food. Most of these animals sing love songs to each other, until we inhumanely mass-slaughter them."
That gets you in the gut, but it also points to an impossibly absurd reductionist way to view the world, where the focus of our humane sacrifices move all the way down the scale of living creatures until you’re a Buddhist who won’t step on ants.
As the previous two news items illustrate, the raw nature of the universe is harsh -- it’s the knee-jerk reaction of reality to the violent. Kindness is the antidote to the way the universe treats the creatures in it -- it’s a survival skill. But it doesn’t mean that bad things don’t happen -- like mice getting killed in farming -- and reducing our intake down to being a breatharian probably means you are killing yourself for mice, and that’s not much of a trade either.
The nice thing is that there is a guy and probably others who are concerned about the slaughter of mice, and that at least balances the world a little bit in regard to the kitten-slinging monsters that also make headlines, right?
John Seven is the Transcript’s arts and entertainment editor.