Statement from the Rocket Grants program about The Story of Chickens

Amber Hansen’s project “The Story of Chickens – A Revolution” is funded by a program called Rocket Grants, which in turn receives its funding from the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. This program is a collaboration between the Charlotte Street Foundation in Kansas City and the KU Spencer Museum of Art in Lawrence, but all the selected projects are driven by artists and occur in the public realm. There are no exhibits of any kind that occur in the spaces of either of the partner agencies.

The Rocket Grants program is specifically intended to fund artists in our region who wish to engage with the public in meaningful ways. We recognize that artists may choose to address issues that are controversial or unpopular, and support and encourage the freedom of expression that typifies our national culture. The role of artists as agents of social change, or as forces who generate thinking and dialogue around critical issues, is an important feature of contemporary art practice – and, we believe, contemporary life.

The application and selection process is a rigorous one. Artists submit project outlines, motivations, historical grounding, examples of previous work, budgets and more. The award selections in 2011 were made by a panel of five jurors – two national figures and three from the Kansas City region – all of whom are distinguished artists and arts professionals. These five individuals engaged in lively, thoughtful discussions and reviews that resulted in the final choices.

We realize that there are many individuals who have ethical or moral standards that differ from those expressed by this artist. The questions that are being posed by many in this debate are ones that the artist has deeply considered herself, and around which she hopes to raise awareness and dialogue. We trust that the decisions she makes with the development of this work will be considered, respectful and useful to our community, and we hope that dissenting opinions will be similarly intended and delivered.

46 Comments Add yours

  1. toasterrehab says:

    Would you please put a stop to this project. If you go to the Spencer Museum of Art’s facebook page, you will see tons of people that also share my opinion that this project is cruel and inappropriate.

  2. stephen says:

    It is only a hypocritical liberalism that can claim that “raising awareness” is an appropriate outcome of an artwork that will result in the deaths of sentient animals. Awareness can be raised by many means short of the finality of death. Please encourage your grantee to change her work — she may send the animals to a sanctuary at the conclusion of her work instead of killing them.

  3. Joseph Gray says:

    Protestations to the contrary, I believe there is an abject failure to understand the artist’s deliberate and considered intent. To send the animals to a sanctuary is to defy the raison d’etre of the project. The deaths are not gratuitous in nature or practice. Have you listened to Hank Will? Or his “brother-in-farms”, Joel Salatin?
    Have you really stepped outside of your own worldview to consider the impact of this project? The intent is to make carnivores, locavores, and omnivores all, at minimum, think about what it means to consume flesh. To consider the entirety of the process including the sacrifice of and by the chickens. I know that in following this project from some distance I have gained from it much more of the necessary “awareness” to continue my movement away from meat. To minimally, attempt to avoid the horrors of the food industrial complex which dominates the world food economy. I do believe our future entails a cessation of the eating of meat. It will not happen overnight nor without a gradualist approach to that end. This project is a means to achieve that end however plodding.
    Though the messenger will also kill, you will do well not to kill the messenger.

    1. v hai says:

      Nonsense!

      People can educate themselves by viewing any of the cruelty videos on youtube. Just search on “chickens”, “horses”, “pigs”, etc with or without a descriptor (such as slaughter) and you will face head on the food animals’ reality.

      To your point of raising awareness, however, Bravo! The discussionmis in progress. The artist has acted as catalyst and made her point. Now spare the chickens the indignity of a death on display and cancel their deaths ormthe project entirely. Be flexible. Admit it’small,for publicity and let the discussion continue, no violence done.

      Otherwise, this project is sensationalism, not art. Pure exploitation of a sensitive issue (eating flesh) for the “artist’s” own personal gain and notoriety. Disgusting. Vain self-interest. Not art. If the artist truly cared about animals, she would find a more creative way to educate and stimulate discussion through her work, rather than perform a ritual sacrifice of an unwilling victim and taking the easy way out.

      Death on display.
      Why not haul out the pigs and demonstrate how piglets are castrated and docked without anaesthetic?
      And then set up a display for the cows too, to show how they’re still being slaughtered by having their throats cut so they bleed out while still conscius.
      Why not bring in the sheep and show the horrible wounding and bleeding when they are being shorn to keep us snuggly warm for our woolens?
      Or better yet, set up a replica of a typical horse slaughter plant so all art viewers will see how the most majestic of creatures suffer when the stun guns don’t work and how the frantic and terrified horses, many of whom were once pets, get to be shot not once in the eye, the face, the neck, the forehead, but up to 12 times before they go down, *still conscious*, while they are bled out and skinned. (Just because causing this kind of death is illegal does not stop it from happening daily to the hundreds of thousands of horses moving through the pipeline).

      Yes, let’s go whole hog, so to speak, and really make an event of this ritual sacrifice that is so clearly trying to fool us by pretending to be “art”.

      1. George Bates, DVM says:

        Thank you, you are exactly on the mark. What’s next, a photo exhibition of posed nude children to raise societal “awareness” of child pronography? Of all the excuses that can be concocted for immoral behavior, none is flimsier or more pretentious than “art.” The “artist” and all of her facilitators and supporters should be thoroughly ahamed of themselves for even proposing such an outrageous affront to public decency. But then I guess that shame requires some degree of personal refinement and reflection that seems, about now, to be sadly lacking in eastern Kansas.

      2. If slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be vegetarian!

    2. Rebecca says:

      Seriously, nonsense. You must have a truly low opinion of the public if you think that a) they don’t have access to lots of images of animals being murdered already to consider if they need to see that, and b) they need to see an animal slaughtered in front of them to be able to care about or consider the value of those lives.

      While many of us are out there working to educate humanely, an exhibition like this just seeks to use exploitation to expose exploitation, and thus – negates itself.

      There are so many ways to teach and show what the artist might claim to be exposing… there is absolutely no reason, no need, to put these innocent animals through suffering and death when their lives mean something to them, when with care and love they could live many years? Their lives matter to THEM.

      These deaths will be gratuitous. At best, a few people will witness the suffering. The fact that it will be presented as “art” will further sanction this type of thing being done. There are so many other ways this artist could get attention for the points she might be wanting to make.

      1. Rebecca says:

        I should clarify my comment was replying to Joseph Gray’s assertions, but I can use this extra moment to add a CHEER and many high fives to V Hai for (his or her) eloquent, detailed, clear and irrefutable remarks condemning the ridiculousness of this exhibition, and also give my thanks to toasterrehab and stephen for raising their wise voices.

        Just FYI, there are artists in the past who did harm some animals for shock value (in the 1970’s, I believe an artist gained a small amount of infamy for shooting a dog on video.) Those artists, it should be noted, struggle for any validity today… their work is dated and has come to have little or no value. Outside of the art world, I don’t think anyone learned anything deep or life-changing from that dog being shot.

        The artist could show video of chickens being slaughtered to the public instead of adding to the killfest. There is unfortunately a lot of horrific footage out there on youtube and whatever… footage of it being done every which way: factory farm-style or on cutesy little ma and pa farms where murder is justified by people with smiles on their faces. Whatever.

        Please everyone, go to sites like http://www.woodstocksanctuary. org or http://www.upc-online.org to learn about KINDNESS to animals, not how to kill animals.

  4. Karen Davis says:

    United Poultry Concerns opposes Amber Hansen’s proposed “The Story of Chickens: A Revolution.” A traveling carnival of animals through Lawrence, culminating in the communal bloodletting execution of the five birds, most likely in front of each other, is a desperate and heartless attempt on the part of the gallery and the “artist” to be “original.” But it isn’t. It’s stale, cruel, and impoverished.

    Cloying rhetoric notwithstanding, there is nothing kind or respectful about turning a helpless bird into a degraded spectacle, and contrary to claims that throat-cutting is “humane,” it is not. Throat-cutting is extremely painful to the victim, made worse when the victim is immobilized in a killing cone that prevents him or her from struggling, while conveniently hiding the evidence of suffering (apart from the hoarse cries of the birds) from view.

    Cuddling these chickens and gaining their trust, then turning on them with a knife, while this may be a standard farming practice, is neither humane nor necessary, and it certainly isn’t art. It’s plain old gratuitous cruelty seeking a legitimized outlet. The project is completely misconceived. It is not revolutionary in any worthwhile sense. We urge its immediate cancellation.

    Sincerely,

    Karen Davis, PhD, President
    United Poultry Concerns
    Machipongo, VA 23405
    757-678-7875
    karen@upc-online.org
    http://www.upc-online.org

    United Poultry Concerns promotes the compassionate and respectful treatment of domestic fowl. For information, please visit http://www.upc-online.org and http://www.upc-online.org/whatsnew/.

  5. Karen Davis says:

    Attention: Dr. Saralyn Reese Hardy, Director
    Spencer Museum of Art
    Via email: SRH@KU.EDU
    Via email: spencerart@ku.edu

    Dear Dr. Hardy:

    I am writing to you respectfully though full of disgust to urge you to use your authority to cancel the ill-conceived chicken slaughter “art” project scheduled to begin in March. I am appalled that an institution I would normally associate with civilized and humane artistic values would even dream of being associated with this heartless travesty of art.

    As I wrote on your Facebook page upon learning about this exhibit featuring animal abuse, animal degradation and pointless death, United Poultry Concerns opposes Amber Hansen’s proposed “The Story of Chickens: A Revolution.” A traveling carnival of five chickens through Lawrence, culminating in the communal bloodletting execution of these poor birds, most likely in front of each other, is a desperate, bankrupt attempt on the part of the museum and the “artist” to be “original.” But it isn’t. It’s stale, cruel, and impoverished. It’s a moral Dead End.

    The words HEARTLESS, PITILESS, and CRUEL keep coming to my mind now as I think about the Spencer Museum of Art and its promotion of cruelty and death as “art.” Shame on Spencer.

    Cheap, cloying rhetoric notwithstanding, there is nothing kind or respectful about turning these helpless birds into a degraded spectacle, and, contrary to claims that throat-cutting is “humane,” it is not. Throat-cutting is extremely painful to the victim, made worse when the victim is immobilized in a killing cone that prevents him or her from struggling, while conveniently hiding the evidence of suffering (apart from the hoarse cries of the birds) from view.

    Cuddling these chickens and gaining their trust, then turning on them with a knife, while this may be a standard farming practice, is neither humane nor necessary. It’s snuff “art” seeking a legitimized outlet. The project is misconceived. It is ugly. It is not revolutionary in any worthwhile sense. We urge you to cancel it immediately. I speak for many sickened and angry people who grieve that your institution would be a party to such violence to helpless birds.
    Here are a few of them:
    http://www.upc-online.org/entertainment/120210sue_coe_others_cancel_slaughter_art.html

    Sincerely,
    Karen Davis, PhD, President
    United Poultry Concerns
    Machipongo, VA 23405
    757-678-7875
    karen@upc-online.org
    http://www.upc-online.org

    United Poultry Concerns promotes the compassionate and respectful treatment of domestic fowl. For information, please visit http://www.upc-online.org and http://www.upc-online.org/whatsnew/.

  6. Jill says:

    This project is so morally wrong. Do you know how many sickos are going to view this and then do the same on their own? I cannot believe this is considered art.

  7. judith brody says:

    Lively discussions are to be applauded, but this misguided attempt to engender (I assume) a meaningful discussion of the relationship between humans and non-human animals, in this case, chickens, is slated to end in a foregone conclusion: blood. This is not, therefore, an open ended discussion, but rather a bit of intellectual and artistic masturbation. By all means, explore the concept; ask the questions; dig into the contradictions (for example, how is it we live with our cats, dogs and parakeets, find their alien antics adorable, but draw the line at slaughtering and then eating them?). How we care for those animals we treat as commodities, and why it is we think they should (or shouldn’t) be a part of our diet are questions well worth having a think about. This exhibit is in need of serious revision in order to achieve its stated goal. If it won’t be revised, then cancel it — spare the chickens along with the hypocrisy that this ill conceived notion qualifies as art.

  8. Lisa says:

    There is no “lively” discussion about death; Animal abuse, animal degradation, and pointless death…wow, we’ve got real art here, no doubt. This is no catalyst for social change. Unless the intention is to promote a cruel and killing culture, then the killing of these animals as “art” must be stopped. Amber is naive and arrogant to believe that art seperates or in any way protects her from the moral break that she has devised. Life is art. Developing goodness, trust, and well-being is Life.

  9. Tobi Kosanke says:

    “Watch its location as it moves throughout town.” You mean watch as the days count down when chickens who are nurtured to trust the people who care for them are killed by those people. As a person who has pet chickens and knows how intelligent and loving they are, I think this is sickening. I support unconventional art. I do not support the slaughter of innocent animals by the people they have bonded to and that they trust… with their lives. I hope the artist re-thinks her message and concludes her project with those chickens becoming some children’s wonderful pets to teach those children compassion.

  10. linda Baumgarteb says:

    This exhibit is sadistic and should not be presented.

  11. carrie says:

    I urge you to stop this sad ‘story of chickens’ slaughter exhibit that promotes the death of innocent beings.
    Please choose kindness. Please encourage art that does not harm.
    We humans really can choose compassion if we want to.

  12. DIANE M. KASTEL says:

    This is a vile, immoral, brutal, and gratuitous project that has nothing to do with art or aesthetics.
    It is a merciless project whose goal is to slaughter chickens and should be banned as an egregious crime against nature! This project should not be given a grant nor given any approval as a representation of art It is a heartless campaign to show how chickens eventually suffer as helpless victims at the hands of mankind.

    Diane M. Kastel
    Wheaton, IL

  13. Denise says:

    I cannot believe that this is even legal. It certainly wouldn’t be in the UK. I guess this is a controversal way to gain publicity for this “show”. I for one find it not only sadistic but out of date. We have already seen dead sheep floating in tanks. This is not art but reflects a rather sinister and worrying mind set by the “artist”. This must not go ahead. Animal killing is not /entertainment.

  14. Lois Brady says:

    Please stop this cruel and inane project.

  15. judy says:

    An aid to the futuring of utter disconnect and apathy, in this glorious god-realm we humans inhabit. When did killing become art? There simply isn’t an acceptable retort on concept and comprehension. Bottomline/ending/culmination: death. For ‘art’. What’s next?

  16. diane rousseau says:

    i would agree with those who say institutionalizing cruelty and slaughter in the name of art is not raising consciousness but shows a lack of empathy. that is what we need to demonstrate, not illustrating the problem by celebrating it as art and thus compounding it.

  17. Howard Schultz says:

    Everyone knows what happens to chickens after they’ve been coopped up on a farm. Why continue with the obvious and kill these birds. They have done nothing to deserve an unnecessay death. And in the name of Art?? We have enough killing going on. Life is not so cheap that it should be taken for such little purpose. Killing is killing. Where is the honor in unnecessary killing? Please don’t commit this bad mistake which cannot be reversed.

  18. Katay Lezenby says:

    Would it be o.k. for the artist to put a group of puppies and kittens on display and encourage us to develop a relationship with them, then have us watch them be gassed to provoke us to think more deeply about the act of giving up an animal to a shelter? It seems like the artist’s objective is to encourage us to think of the chickens as sentient beings, but by using live chickens as tools in an art project she perpetuates the thinking of chickens as “things”, The artist, herself, has clearly not come to think of these birds as beings whose desire to live and to live on their lives on their own terms is comparable to our own and equally worthy of respect Please think of these chickens as individuals, the way most compassionate people would think of puppies, kittens, and, yes, humans! Each life matters. It is not right to kill even one to make a point.

  19. Job says:

    What is the matter with all of you? You are the most self-righteous, sneering and unlikeable bunch of people – that’s how you come across here anyway. Why would anyone want to become like you? Don’t get me wrong, I know some really great vegans, but you all are the kind that give your diet choice a bad name. There are billions of people in this world who eat meat and like it, and don’t think they are evil. How is your boringly repetitive, mean, preachy message ever going to change anyone’s mind? Don’t you know that people don’t like to be SHOUTED AT? And what do you know about this project, this artist, this place, or art that isn’t pretty or feel good? The things you say show that you just read something on some website for chicken fetish people and thought you should show us how superior you are. You all think you can just stick your noses in from somewhere else, without knowing anything about our town or our lives and demand that we listen to your whiney complaints. What would you think if people from somewhere else wanted to shut down your chicken love club because they didn’t like the way it kills freedom in public?

    Let’s talk about hypocrisy… I wouldn’t be surprised if you are like this because you think it will clear your conscience from all the other things you do that kill animals but are much less convenient to change – like give up your car or your cell phone. Who gave you the right to judge other people? Are you really better than us? Why don’t you do something useful with your lives like sell your computers and donate the money to stop children from freezing to death in refugee camps? If I hear one more thing about killing these damn chickens being like the holocaust or rape or child torture I will start to think that not eating meat makes your brain die. And I bet other people will feel that way too. Way to promote your cause, vegan bullies! I know you won’t read this, because you don’t read anything that doesn’t agree with you, but I feel a bit better after telling you what most soft-hearted folks around here are too embarrassed to say.

    1. MIKE says:

      I think you missed the point. Yes, most of us eat animals and that will never change. BUT, if an animal is going to be killed for food, we just ask it is done humanely with the least amount of pain as possible. Is that so wrong?

      And to be killed for sport or for art, that is sad.

      I have rescued 4 roosters and take care of them and a bunch of hens. Do you know they all have personalities, especially the roosters. My roosters all love to be carried around and sometimes even put their head down and close their eyes and fall asleep, just as a dog or a cat would. All my roosters: Buff, Mookie, Lucky and B.J. come when called by name.

      Granted, roosters are smarter with more personality than chickens. And for that, they get slaughtered almost immediately after being born.

      You must have never had direct contact with a live chicken or rooster. Go to a farm sometime(not a slaughter farm) and I bet you will change your opinion of chickens. Hold one in your arms and when they cuddle into you and look into your eyes, you can honestly say you could easily just hand it over to someone to have it’s throat slit? And hearing it’s cries and screams would have no effect on you whatsoever?

      If that is the case, then I feel sorry for you. You must not have much love in your heart or empathy for others. You probably do not donate to charity or give to the poor.

      I’m not a vegan but I no longer eat chicken. You say what gives us the right to judge other people? Look at what you just said in your own comment, talk about judging every vegan the same way!

      If you had to choose what kind of society you wanted to live in, would you rather live with a bunch of people who have no problem killing other live things, or would you rather live with more caring people.

      Alot of the time, people who can easily kill defenseless animals grow up to or will become abusive to humans and possibly become murderers. Look it up online or in a psychology book.

      I can psycho-analyze you and can tell you are not a happy person and probably are very prejudice of other peoples lifestyles, races, religions, etc. The term “close-minded” also comes to mind. You can believe whatever you believe, that is your right, but when you cannot see or hear or understand someone elses opinion at all…..well, you can figure out what life will bring you.

      You will attract those same type of people in your life and as each of you can’t understand the other, well, that’s fodder for arguments and who knows what.

      So think about it, your comment here says more about you then you realize.

      I will pray for you tonight.

      1. Job says:

        Um, hello Mike? If you go back and read what I said I did mention that I know some great people who are vegans. I’m not talking about all vegans, I’m talking about you lot – the ranty kind who think that bashing other people on the heads with your beliefs is less aggressive than killing an animal that looks cuddly for food. If you read about the project you can see that the chickens will be killed humanely, and that it’s not about the killing. It’s about how people don’t know anything about food they eat, and our local community coming together to talk. What would happen if you could psycho analyze your own writing? And when you are praying, stick one in there for people who think they are above the rest of us.

  20. Janice says:

    Death is NOT art. Are you crazy?? You are inflicting suffering on innocent helpless feeling creatures and call it “education.” This is cruel and insane beyond belief.

  21. ….Um, no. This is so wrong in so many ways. And if you don’t know why, just ask a child. Funny how 5 year-olds have a better understanding of the world than most adults.

  22. Dr. C.A. Suzuki says:

    I am appalled that a Museum of Art of such caliber would classify unnecessary violent acts as Art? Would the Museum promote an “artist” who wishes to illustrate human sacrifice as described in biblical texts, by exhibiting young virgins at the Museum and slitting their throat at the end of the event?

  23. keithakers says:

    This is not an issue of freedom of speech. There is a social consensus that slaughter, even when it is fully justified, is disgusting. That’s basically what keeps us out of the Middle Ages. This project violates that consensus. Feel free to advocate slaughter, to compose operas glorifying slaughter, or to write volumes of poetry in its defense. But don’t pretend that slaughter itself is art.

  24. scrivener212 says:

    It is possible to start a conversation about the killing of animals–marvelous things can be done these days with non-living materials–without actually killing animals. If the artist is so interested in starting a conversation about the slaughter of chickens, why kill them to make the point? There is something wrong with this moral chasm in the artist’s thinking, and something very wrong with the kind of institutions that will show and fund animal slaughter that someone calls “art.” This isn’t a dialogue; it isn’t a disagreement over the nature of art. It’s the killing of animals, not for food, not for clothing, not because they will communicate a disease, but because it is titillating. That is not art. It is splatter porn.

  25. Constance Kiesel says:

    The day individuals (or panel of five jurors) can convince themselves that taking a life has artistic merit is the day I want to see proof of their conviction by the giving of their own lives in the same proposed manner. Unnatural death is NOT art, it is a tragedy.

  26. As an advocate for the spiritual advancement of chickens, I am disgusted. This is not how you raise awareness! We at the Center For Transcendental Poultry raise awareness everyday in both chickens and their human stewards! It is vile that you try to promote the status quo hack and slash policies of the biggest murder industry IN THE HISTORY OF THE UNIVERSE! We at the CTP feel that chickens have wisdom to offer to humans (isn’t the question “which came first the chicken or the egg?” the most profound idea that is yet unsolved by the blind, cutting blade of science?). We cultivate a healthy LIVING relationship with the chicken bretheren through communal dining off the ground, guided clucking meditation and astral projection led by our guru roosters. In these daily practices we come closer to understanding natural perspectives that aren’t tainted by “advanced” human “ethics”. What sort of ethical system would kill a living thing to provide food for life? Our chickens free range: eating bugs, eating plants, eating dirt and are HAPPY because they are ALIVE and know their RIGHTS. Our daily mantra is a call to ethic responsibility in both the chicken and human communities. Stop this gross display of awareness! Can’t you tell by all of the awareness that it has already raised that this project will not raise any awareness! Discussions on life and death are meaningless without the daily practices we advocate. Please watch a video of one of our activities: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sqZZ95L2n7o&feature=related
    You disgust me,
    Robert McKenna,
    President/Director/ChickenHousing Coordinator/Cook/Devotee
    Center for Transcendental Poultry

  27. Last Thanksgiving while I was living in rural NW Missouri, I slaughtered a duck to make gumbo with my mom. This was my first killing as an adult so I consulted my neighbor, my girlfriend’s grandma, who not only had a large flock, but used to slaugther around 25 chickens a day on harvest days. This was to feed a lot of hungry farmers. She told us her preferred method was to step on the neck and pull off the head, wait until they were done running around, then dip them in scalding water. Uneasy, but willing to follow advice, we did the same with the duck. Unfortunately a duck’s neck is tougher and having to look into the duck’s eyes broke my heart. I haven’t chosen meat since. But there are two very important lessons involved in this experience that resonate today. #1 Experience, service, and action are the most powerful paths to understanding. Watching a Youtube video of something to experience it is TOURISM. Does watching a video of two people in love help you find love? Does thinking well wishes for your community produce change? If you answer ‘yes’ to that last question, you most likely lack the courage to face real risk. Risk is crucial in developing mental relationships because it releases chemicals such as dopamine that build deeper neurological relationships. That’s real and you can feel it. It is what has effected me and why I don’t choose meat. #2 I don’t CHOOSE meat. I will eat meat if it is gifted to me. I will eat the crappiest hotdog if it is given sincerely as a form of generosity. I know it’s gross, full of chemicals, and made up of inhumane flesh. BUT! The human connection that is built, maintained or grown in that exchange is more important than those factory details. That person is there. That moment is there. To treat others like they matter is respect and respect is the most HUMANE gift we can grant.
    This project is certainly controversial. The amount of passion put into this discussion is amazing. But take the risk, accept the gift, and see it through. If this project turns out to be the bleak massacre that some people in this conversation expect it to be, then let it be. Once it is, it will surely be effective. This is a learning experience of deep understanding.
    I welcome discussion but please do not try to compare the killing of 5 chickens to the killing of 5 humans. We all know it is different. If you believe that all life is the same, then please recognize that this is your chosen belief system and practice compassion when engaging this conversation. All of this is extremely taxing on the people who agreed to support this project and manage this site. If you are comfortable with bringing pain to them but not to chickens, reprioritize please.
    PS I have witnessed chickens eat their sister chicken right after a hawk got to it. Where do chicken’s ethics end and where do human projections begin?

  28. A. David says:

    I hesitate to leave a message because starting a discussion is what the project is supposed to do and I feel like the more discussion, the more Spencer and the “artist” will feel they’ve succeeded. The best thing that could happen here is that no one shows up – no one looks at the chickens, no one goes to the butchering. Perhaps if there’s not an audience she’ll not go that final step. BUT, unfortunately I think people will show up and the discussion is started so I’ll say what I think. I am horrified. I grew up in Lawrence, attended KU and have lived in NYC for the last 3 years – I miss Lawrence every day and this is the first time I’m glad to not be home. I am ashamed my town is allowing this. There are so many wrongs here. Let’s just start with the precedent – this is an esteemed art museum sanctioning the killing of animals for “art.” There are rumors of a stray dog being starved in a gallery overseas for an “art” project, but I haven’t found out if that is true or not – but this is real. When the rumors about the dog were floating around, I worked with a few art students who loved animals – but I was shocked that they were willing to consider the death of the dog as sanctionable if done as “art.” “Who are we to judge?” was the question. The more people see these kinds of things sanctioned by reputable institutions, the more other “artists” will think of similar projects.

    Next – it’s supposed to show the chickens as beautiful and individuals – make people connect. I am so confused by this…..how is killing connecting? Can people not get to know chickens and then let them live? The word “revolutionary” is in the title – but how is this revolutionary? It is still perpetrating the idea that death is the natural end between a human and a particular kind of animal – and it’s not. Revolutionary would have been letting them live, go to a sanctuary and live. If the only way people can learn to respect other living things must end in the death of the other, then I have little hope for our species.

    And it’s not even logical – I believe someone else has said that it doesn’t even show the reality. Perhaps it shows how it SHOULD be for those people who eat meat – how the chickens should be raised. But it’s not how it happens in the vast vast vast majority. If the “artist” wants to show people what they are supporting, then she should allow them to know the chickens as the beautiful creatures they are and then take willing participants to a slaughterhouse to see what happens to the animals they eat. This does nothing but make art-folk feel good about participating in such a “progressive” project, facing death and knowing they’ve taken part. But sadly they still don’t even know what it is they support when they buy most of their meat.

    And finally – but not least – these animals are not simply only worthwhile as a message for humans. These chickens – by even the “artist’s” own admission – are beautiful creatures. Chickens have rich lives when allowed to. But this project uses them only as commodities to present some message. After they are held down and struggle as their throats are cut and their lives bleed away, people will go home feeling good for participating, some will discuss the chickens’ sacrifice (like the chickens chose it). But they’ll go home – to them it was the entertainment of an evening. To the chickens it was everything. No – I don’t know what goes on in a chickens mind, but I’ve been around enough animals to know they enjoy living even if they don’t have the words to express it. Those chickens take pleasure in the morning air, in the hay, in the bugs they eat. They observe and see and feel, and it breaks my heart to think the town I love will support their death in the name of “art”. Lawrence sees itself as open and progressive – and I do too. But this doesn’t mean accepting cruelty in the name of art. Sometimes progressiveness takes the form of protecting the innocent, not exploiting them.

    Not allowing this project to go forward is not censorship – because it’s not art. It’s death. If not allowing this project is censorship, then so is prohibiting snuff films. So is prohibiting child pornography. Killing a non-willing participant to make your message is no art, it’s obscenity.

  29. Dennis Lee Cleven says:

    I find the brutality of killing chickens revolting. This is not art. I am delighted to see that there are so many who agree with me on this topic. I don’t find this project educational. There are so many videos on youtube and other sources that show the slaughterhouses. I have videos myself. There is no better spokesperson than Dr. Karen Davis.
    Chickens are the most misunderstood birds and the most abused. I urge you to pull the plug on the use of Chickens being killed as “Art”. Thank you.

  30. Doctor Art says:

    Greetings Atavars!

    None of us can help being throw-backs to our prehistoric selves, but some beings are more stone-age than others!

    Even those of you out there who think the world began 6051 years ago need to know about the fear-stoked, greedy lizard brain that lurks inside your skull. Chickens are pretty much all lizard brain, you can see it in their reptilian eyes and when they peck out each others’ flesh.

    People are less honest. We pretend that we have evolved, but really we are still the same ignorant, tribal thugs. That fancy cerebrum has built us a world that tries to hide all the dirty, messy nature stuff, but look – we still kill the other tribes, are driven by sex and hoarding, lust for meat, and are terrified of any thought too deviant from speculative, rigid belief systems that makes some kind of “sense” of it all.

    Doctor Art is here to tell you that we are all in this together. Embrace your atavistic urges! Look at the world that so much pretense has built!

    If you want something new, then you gotta evolve. If you want to evolve, then you gotta stop thinking you have the answer. Die together in hate or live together in love! Open your heart to art!!!

    You can trust me, I have a terminal degree.

    Dr. Art

  31. Karen Davis says:

    Dear Dr. Hardy:

    I know that neither you personally, nor the Spencer museum institutionally, subscribes to full, unfettered freedom of expression. I know that your purported support for “freedom of expression” stops where your own nose begins. So, please, no more false and empty platitudes. I know that you would not host or defend an exhibit that featured Korean dog slaughter for cuisine or any number of human sacrificial mutilations that still take place in other human cultures around the world in order to give museum patrons & community residents a “hands on” lesson about the customs of other cultures. This being so, both you and the Spencer Museum are acting in BAD FAITH by invoking the “free expression” formula as a tactic designed to dismiss the dictates of conscience and fundamental decency toward innocent and defenseless beings. The only reason that you and the museum can get away with this hypocrisy is that this society hurts and kills “farm” animals with impunity, and the museum can cynically cash in on this unfortunate situation and clothe it in saccharine rhetoric.

    At the very least, if you and the museum you serve do not have the courage and compassion to stand up against this wrongful chicken slaughter exhibit on behalf of life-affirmation and genuine art, at least stop hiding behind “freedom of artistic expression” as your excuse. This only deepens the shame and dishonor of the Spencer museum and its administrators.

    Sincerely,
    Karen Davis, PhD, President
    United Poultry Concerns
    karen@upc-online.org
    http://www.upc-online.org

    1. Doctor Art says:

      Well hey there cave woman karen!

      How could a good doctor wish for a better example to show up than this?

      Go on, give your lizard brain a hug! Somebody has to…

      Let gooooooooo and truuuuuuuuuuust. Imagine me hypnotizing you with a piece of chalk. (Thanks Mr. McKenna for that enlightening moment).

      Emotional thugs kill little hopey signs of change, cave woman karen. Little hope…big rock…splat! Icky pool of hope-blood. Shock-horror!

      Get your love on, girl! Open your heart to art!

      You can trust me, I have a terminal degree.

      Dr. Art

      1. sarah sarah says:

        Hey Dr. Art,

        Let’s use your lizard brain first as an art project, that is if you even have a brain. If you consider this art, then you don’t even deserve to post any comments.

        Sarah

  32. Connie Mar says:

    This takes “art” to the lowest level. I am appalled that the museum still supports this project! Since killing chickens isn’t even legal in Lawrence, won’t this also be breaking the law and lead to the arrest of all parties involved? I am embarrassed of the human race and do not consider this person to be an artist, or this museum to truly be a museum of art. Please change your titles accordingly. If you truly want to help people become aware of the source of our food supply, then video a live story starting with the factory farms, transportaion of live animals, and the treatment at slaughterhouses. That will have much more impact.

  33. sarah sarah says:

    To Dr. Saralyn Reese Hardy, Director of the Spencer Museum of Art,

    I can’t believe you would even consider such a snuff act. It has nothing to do with art. This is simply murder not art. People do keep chickens as pets. If you want to kill something, why don’t you consider your own pets-then you might understand how other people find this totally sick and repulsive.

    Sarah

  34. Rachel Ogden says:

    Why are The Spencer Museum of Art and The Rocket Grants Program still standing behind something so reprehensible? “Freedom of artistic expression” is not an answer.

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