Costa Rican Artist Under Fire For Starving Dog As Part Of Art Exhibit

DogWarning: This story may disturb some readers.

There is global outrage over a Costa Rican artist, Guillermo “Habacuc” Vargas, who tied up a starving and sick stray dog as part of an art exhibit in Nicaragua in August.

Vargas paid two children to catch the stray dog. He then tied the dog in a corner of the gallery and informed others to not feed the dog or give him water. The dog died after a day.

As part of his art exhibit, Vargas included a legend spelled out in dog food reading “You are what you read”, photos and an incense burner. He said his piece was a tribute to a Nicaraguan burglar that was killed in Costa Rica by two rottweilers that were guarding the property.

Vargas said: “I won’t say the dog died. The importance to me is the hypocrisy of the people where an animal is the focus of attention where people come to see art but not when it’s in the street starving to death.”

The artist has been chosen to represent Costa Rica in an art event, “Bienal Centroamericana Honduras 2008″. There is an online petition that is boycotting Vargas and is asking that he be banned from participating in this event.

Sources: Costa Rica Blogs, Care2

Photo: The GinBlog

(Thanks John)

71 Responses to “Costa Rican Artist Under Fire For Starving Dog As Part Of Art Exhibit”

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  1. { } says:

    […] Read about “Costa Rican Artist Under Fire For Starving Dog As Part Of Art Exhibit” […]

  2. Lady of Saints says:

    I think turn about is fair play. I would be willing to do the same to this poor excuse for a man/artist !

  3. richard says:

    someone should start a group to raise money to hire some one to take care of this sick person

  4. josh says:

    this man is not an atrist he has perverted what art should stand for the couragous fight for humanity and freedom. He has made art about oppresion and destruction, the willful torture of a sentient creature.

  5. not a sheep says:

    the dog was not harmed. it was given food and water. this whole thing was done to relay a message: that people only cared about it because it was in a gallery, and not when it was in the street. it was to show all you people who are suddenly in outrage are just sheep.

    know the facts
    that is all

  6. Jessica says:

    This is not art it is animal cruelity! Whether the dog died or lived. He should be sent to jail!

  7. leigh-ann says:

    well, “not a sheep”. this poor animal was left there to WASTE AWAY! he was NOT fed and NOT watered while he was there, and DIED BECAUSE OF IT! i want to see you chained to a wall with nothing. see what you do! anybody who says this is not animal cruelty must be as SICK an individual as that man!

  8. Kati says:

    Put the freak in jail please, because he is sick. Whoever doesn’t think that this is wrong needs to go see a doctor, because something is definitely wrong with them.

  9. unknown says:

    he is not a man, but a worthless piece of s*** who should be hung by his b@lls, have the s*** kicked out of him, starved, and left there to rot. what he did to this poor innocent animal was disgusting. he should not be allowed to live. for anyone who thinks this is ‘art’ just go die because you deserve to. this guy is sick and makes the human race look bad. i hope he suffers a slow LONG painful death. This man is an embarrassment to artists! R.I.P poor innocent dog :(
    and by the way ‘not a sheep’ the f*cking b@stard could have proved his point by doing something to help the dog, not leave it there to die! u need to do the world a favor and go choke!

  10. Brenna Aston says:

    Ridiculous sick basterd. Let the punishment fir the crime!See how he likes it…

  11. John Wilks says:

    When dogs are starving out on the streets of third world shitholes like Costa Rica and Honduras, it is sad. It’s not “art.”

  12. Justin says:

    Nobody fed the dog? Nobody cut the rope? It is art, and it says a lot about people… The dogs death, which was inevitable anyway, was made meaningful in pointing out what a useless, hypocritical, apathetic, “evil” what ever that is, race we are. The man is a genius and should be commended for making something so simple announce something so clearly. Next time they should grab a homeless bum and tie him up, tell people not to feed or water him and see if anybody does anyway.

    Guess the law might get involved then? Maybe?

  13. Justin says:
    I just found the above link
    Have a look at this before you judge him, I like this man, in fact I love him.

  14. PEOPLE says:

    Please - understand he did this only to draw attention to exactly what is happening! People only care becasue it is in the news, had you seen the dog on the sidewalk near your home would you have taken it in? No! you would have left it to die just as the thousands of people who walked past the dog did… Not one SINGLE person tried to help it. Not one SINGLE person dared to feed it, or water it.

    Anbd as a side note, the dog did not die, he took very good care of it while it was displayed. The dog was only diplayed for three hours each day - the rest of the day it was given a good home with food and water.

  15. AnimalLover says:

    To “PEOPLE”, just so you know I would care for a dog on the streets who I could clearly see was starving and I know many other people in the world who still have a heart would as well - so dont generalise. Secondly, if he took such good care of it,
    why it died skinny and miserable in a cold, hard corner? Sorry but that seems like torture, not ‘good care’. Try thinking through the logic of your posted comment for a few seconds and you’ll find its absolute rubbish.

  16. Ajary says:

    I think the person who did this needs to be staved in front of his parents and then maybe he can learn about art.

  17. Moroccan gal says:

    To people. There is huge difference between tying a dog and not providing him any food a water, and a loose dog even if he is starving. At least the one loose can fight for his life, move and look for anything to eat or drink.
    This is really sick, hypocrite person he is after money why is using this poor excuse and use the poor dog.

  18. David Steber says:

    The “artist” should be shot, and everyone who excuses him or lies for him should be in prison until they die and go to hell.

  19. Rica says:

    Although I see his point in his stark parallelism that the dogs get more attention and justice as compared to a human being, I still think he could have put his message out there in a more positive light, instead of being part of the system that inflicts harm on other creatures.

    Right now, all I can focus on is his inhuman behavior of animal cruelty instead of the message that he was trying to show.
    —It’s what they call negative reinforcement… and we all know that if we want to educate or make a message clear, the best way is really through positive reinforcement.

  20. Refutation says:

    You Are What You Read

    “I think this guy is sick! Someone should tie him up, no, put him in a glass box, so that he can’t stand up. Then heat up the room that he’s in and have a waterfall going in the corner. And if the bastard doesn’t die in a day, then gut him from head to toe. That shit isn’t art it’s the work of a disgusting piece of shit, devil, who deserves to burn in hell for that.”

    This is just one of the thousands of outraged comments found across the internet directed at the artist Guillermo ‘Habacuc’ Vargas. Vargas gained global attention in 2007 when he captured an emaciated dog from the streets of San Jose, exhibited it in The Codice Gallery, Nicaragua. Tied up with no food or water he let the dog starve to death, with the title ‘Eres Lo Que Lees’ (‘You Are What You Read’) written in dog food on the wall behind the animal. The story swept across the internet as a chain email directing you to an online petition to stop the artist repeating the piece while representing Costa Rica at Bienal Centroamericana in Honduras in November of this year. The petition now holds over a two and a half million signatures. Angry blogs and Youtube videos call for Vargas to be given the same treatment as the dog and be tied to a post with no food or water. These blogs and videos feature thousands of comments, like the one above, condemning the artist as an “animal murderer” and denouncing his work as inhumane cruelty. Facebook groups have been created for incensed users to rant and rave about Vargas’ actions. These groups have hundreds of thousands of members. Vargas and the gallery have even received death threats.
    The gallery later insisted that the dog, named Natividad, did not in fact starve to death but ‘was untied all the time except for the three hours the exhibition lasted and it was fed regularly with dog food Habacuc himself brought in’ and then escaped after one day. Vargas has declined to comment on the condition of the animal but says he wanted to test the public’s reaction and highlight the plight facing thousands of stray dogs in San Jose.

    “Habacuc has put the guests in a position to question their own moral responsibility. Failure to act to save the dog indicates a process of rationalization on behalf of the guest, which probably considered the perceived facts of the situation: the dog was a stray set to face death anyway, it’s so far malnourished that it will be miserable regardless, it’s for the sake of art and who am I to ruin it, etc.”

    Vargas’ refusal to comment on the dog’s survival has only furthered speculation about the dog’s demise and it is precisely what the artist wanted. The furore over the whole situation has become part of the artwork itself with each incensed comment and angry email adding to it’s message. Even though no one at the exhibition stepped in to help the poor dog, hundreds of thousands have felt aggrieved enough to sign the petition after reading the email or to leave a comment at the end of a blog. The artwork’s title You Are What You Read – it makes sense. To make no action when you feel things are in control but as soon as you’re told they aren’t and it’s easy to do “your bit”, everyone jumps on board.
    Vargas’ work highlights people’s ability to ignore suffering and cruelty until it is presented to them out of the context of everyday life. There are tens of thousands of stray, starving dogs on the streets of San Jose and only a tiny proportion of the global population are actually trying to help them. Then as soon as one is publicly displayed, the whole world throws up their arms in outrage and jostles to get on the bandwagon. By putting the animal in an art gallery, Vargas made an example of the dog. While some people will find that cruel, the statement that he was making about cruelty was immensely resonant, sparking off this global debate. Vargas was, in fact, making an example out of us, the apathetic public. He understood, and intended, the outcry that took place, it was all part of his artwork, and while it doesn’t lessen the impact of the impassioned outbursts of those against the spectacle, it shows them in a different perspective. The comments are turned back on the commenters to expose their contradictions. The striking thing is that some people are still not backing down, in spite of the evidence presented that the dog survived and was well-looked after, and stubbornly continue to protest.

    “With the unlimited access to information comes the heavy responsibility of critical thinking.”

    The furious reactions to the exhibit have come from all over the world, probably further than even Vargas could have imagined. The exaggerated interest has amplified the artist’s local concerns about stray dogs on the streets of San Jose and turned them into a global discussion about animal cruelty. This would have been incapable of happening without the World Wide Web. This far-reaching technology has shrunk the world to an unimaginably small scale. Through instant messaging, Facebook statuses and online forums; news, information and gossip can be sent around the planet in a flash and can be discussed between people of cultures than would not usually have contact. The internet has become an interactive, electronic debating table where anyone can voice their opinion, intellectual or ignorant, and be heard, but with the abundance and easy availability of information, you have to be careful what you believe.
    Anybody can access Wikipedia and write something, anybody can write a blog and anybody can read them. Chain emails arrive in inboxes everyday claiming that Bill Gates wants to give you money or that forwarding the email to ten more people will bring you good luck and most people delete them instantly but something about Vargas’ case was different. Even though it only takes a couple of minutes ‘googling’ the name Guillermo Vargas to find websites and weblogs that provided evidence to the contrary of the petitions and protests against Vargas’ work, millions of people didn’t take the time, when faced with the chain email, to think for themselves, do a tiny amount of research and come to an informed decision. Instead they condemn a man off the back of uninformed evidence.

    The increase in audience awareness across the world has shifted the possible outcomes of work for artists such as Vargas. His exploration into the reaction that this work could cause highlights how much our communicative powers have changed over the last decade. But equally it exposes our almost unquestionable belief in the information that we know is being written behind screens. Our faith in the words written by others has come out of historical approaches to recording and writing our histories and events. But in this new age of mass un-vetted and uncontrolled communication our creative and expressive avenues must become increasingly self aware, for if you are what you read then we must be able to stand behind what we write.


  21. Dog Protector says:

    Little man syndrome! You are so worthless and are treated as such. You had to step on a sick animal to feel greater. You are a disgrace to the human race. I hope the only art exhibit you attend is your death, when all of us will be painting a rainbow in remembrance of the animals you hurt and paint bright smiles because you are gone to hell.

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