Artist’s Film of Chickens on Fire Removed Following Animal Rights Outrage

Have animal rights activists become one of art’s most ‘engaged’ audiences?

Adel Abdessemed, Printemps, 2013, film still. Courtesy: the artist and MAC Lyon

Adel Abdessemed, Printemps, 2013, film still. Courtesy: the artist and MAC Lyon

Algerian artist Adel Abdessemed has removed his provocative video work Printemps (2013), which features a row of chickens ablaze, from an exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MAC) Lyon. The work had attracted significant criticism online.

Printemps shows footage of chickens hung up on a wall, on fire – the museum for its part claims that the animals were not harmed, and the film uses special cinematic effects. In reality the chickens ‘were subjected to the flames only for three seconds and under the strict control of technicians and the artist to avoid any suffering’, the museum says. The work is an ‘allegory of all violence’, the artist says.

But animal rights activists disagree and have criticised the work on social media, with activist Aymeric Caron commenting on Twitter: ‘how dare you endorse animal torture?’ The artist and museum removed the work from the exhibition ‘Thhe Antidote’ this week.

Abdessemed is no stranger to criticism of animal violence in his work. In 2008, the San Francisco Art Institute pulled an exhibition which featured works by the artist showing animals beaten with a sledgehammer.

Last year, New York’s Guggenheim Museum withdrew several works from its landmark survey of Chinese art, ‘Art and China after 1989: Theater of the World’, following criticism of its treatment of animal rights. Read Tausif Noor writing for us on how recent cases highlight how animal rights activists have become one of art’s most ‘engaged’ audiences.

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