General Question

scamp's avatar

Is this art or just plain disgusting?

Asked by scamp (13124points) September 11th, 2008

A Texas death row inmate wants his body donated and fed to goldfish after his execution. An artist wants to freeze his body, then give it to people at an aquarium to feed him to hundreds of goldfish. The story can be found here. The artist says it is to call atteniton to the fact that people are “legally killed.” Do you think this is really art, or is the artist just trying to do something outrageous for advertising? I think it’s pretty sick. Your thoughts?

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54 Answers

ezraglenn's avatar

dead link!

EmpressPixie's avatar

I think there are health issues surrounding giving the public bits of dead human flesh to feed fish regardless of anything else. I see no problem in feeding him to the fishes if that’s even what fish eat, but I wouldn’t involve the public in it. Some parent would let their kid feed the fish, find out, flip out, sue, I just see it ending in badness. So, while it might be a plan for art, it is ill conceived and ultimately publicity only.

Surely there is a way to go through with that request without turning it into a public spectacle. That also bothers me – this man deserves dignity in death no matter what he did in life, he shouldn’t be physically turned into a “statement”.

syz's avatar

I think the “artist” is stupid.

sarapnsc's avatar

No, it is not art…just another morbid, attention seeker to me.

jlm11f's avatar

Ignoring the “ew” factor completely, i don’t get how making someone into fish food is considered “art” in general. Will someone explain?

BronxLens's avatar

@Empress, mummies are a statement…

scamp's avatar

Here is another link, ezraglenn

susanc's avatar

“Publicity” is bad? What is the point of art then? To be quiet? To be nice? To be decorative?

Wake the hell up.

That is the message.

poofandmook's avatar

@Pixie: Did you read the article? The wish of the person being executed is that the artist use his body to make a statement. Those are his wishes.

tonedef's avatar

My policy is, if you have to ask, it’s art.

DrasticDreamer's avatar

Art is defined by each individual, that’s the point. In my personal opinion, it wouldn’t be art. Feeding a dead guy to a bunch of fish doesn’t inspire any kind of thoughts in me. I just think it’s kind of stupid. But there will be people out there who are inspired by it. They will ask, “Is it a good thing, since his body isn’t simply being wasted and he’s feeding other living things to keep them alive? Is this the inmates way of keeping a part of himself alive and if so, does he deserve it?” Etc. Like I said… It just kind of inspires a “whatever” in me.

There is an absolutely disgusting artist who tied a stray dog up in an actual art gallery and starved him to death, day by day, while people constantly walked in and out to look at his “display”. On the wall behind the dog were pictures made of dog food. The artist said he did it to bring attention to the problem with roaming, starving dogs in the city, but I call bullshit. He was just a sick freak who did it to get attention, and he got away with it by calling it art.

I will not go into the kind of things I would like to happen to that “artist”, considering most of them would put me in jail. However, if someone did the same thing to him, I would laugh.

scamp's avatar

@DrasticDreamer I’m surprised that guy wasn’t arrested for cruelty! That’s horrible!!

DrasticDreamer's avatar

Yeah, it was hard to believe. I can’t remember what country it was in, but if you Google it, it’s extremely easy to find.

poofandmook's avatar

@Drastic: I could’ve gone the rest of eternity without being reminded of that :(

Lightlyseared's avatar

It could be argued that executing prisoners is “disgusting”.

scamp's avatar

@Lightlyseared What are your thoughts about this form of “art”?

Nimis's avatar

Everyone has their own definition of Art. Personally, I’m a little hung up on semantics and prefer to consider much of this type of art as theoretical or philosophical aesthetics.

EmpressPixie's avatar

@poof: No, the article wasn’t working when I responded, so I went off what I had.

Nimis's avatar

Though I’m tempted to file this particular case simply as theatrics. Yes, art is supposed to make you think…to get a response from you. But there are more cerebral ways to get this particular point across. Then again, the idea was conceived by a death row inmate, so I probably shouldn’t expect too much. My rules of thumb: If it captures an idea and makes you think in a particular way (engages your eye and your mind) that would not be possible to do in another easily conceivable way, it is art. If it is trying to do so (but is not terribly successful), I personally file it under philosophical aesthetics. And if it was totally failing to do any of that, I’d just toss it under visual theatrics. (Which is where I’d put much of what people call shock art.)

tonedef's avatar

To add to my previous response, I’m also of the opinion that ALL artists are histrionic to a certain degree- nobody makes art and then doesn’t want it to get tons of exposure. I don’t think that you can really separate “art” from a “need for attention.”

Nimis's avatar

Tonedef: A lot of people make art just for themselves.

tinyfaery's avatar

I wish I had not read this thread. Poor doggy. :(

Lightlyseared's avatar

@scamp well it’s not really my cup of tea. But then a lot of what passes as art these days isn’t. I mean there was the glow in the dark rabbits, pickled cows, a head made out of blood, a placenta in a life support machine the list goes on..

If the guy wants to donate his body to art then so be it. I think he would be better off donating it to science or donating his organs so that others may live but hey. As long as they’re not breaking any laws then I think if you want to live in a free society you sometimes have to let people do things that you find morally repugnent because the alternative is mush, much worse. They can’t stop you from complaining about it though (another benefit of the free society thing).

Lightlyseared's avatar

Incidently the last piece of art I really liked was an installation of giant slides in the turbine hall at the Tate Modern.

susanc's avatar

All those things – visual theatrics, philosophical aesthetics – are art forms. What’s left over if you exclude stuff like that? Painting on canvas with oil paints?
How boring is that?
How much does that make you think?
Why is “cerebral” a better way to make a point
than “visual”?
I find this discussion incredibly depressing.

Nimis's avatar

I’m a little OCD. I’ve got to organize things (in my head). But these are just personal practices, none that I think others should use to categorize. These are terms that I (personally) apply to less successful art. Art is more than paintings on canvas. (There are also paintings that I just call paintings and not art.) I don’t think art is determined by the medium. I think it’s determined by the reaction, reflection, etc. Good art should should be both cerebral and visual.

Nimis's avatar

I should should double check my answers. Sorry about that.

sarapnsc's avatar

It’s a piece of garbage and no where close to art. If this hadn’t gotten so much exposure, hardly anyone would give it a 2nd glance and call it art, and it wouldn’t even be discussed.

tWrex's avatar

@DrasticDreamer That’s disgusting. I think someone should do the same thing to that bastard and call it art.

As far as this goes. I can’t call it art. Art is an expression of something. More importantly, it’s something you create. All you’re doing here is creating, in essence, shit. The fish will shit him out and that’s it. So I guess if you think that the creation of shit is art, then I’m one damn fine artist – and regular too!

cyndyh's avatar

I think it is a form of art. The medium is the remains of a person and it’s a performance piece that the artist would have people participate in. The fact that we are talking about it says that it strikes a nerve with many of us.

This is so different than performing acts of cruelty against an animal and calling it art. The medium here is the remains of a person not an unwilling victim of the art like the dog you mentioned.

If I was in a similar situation as the death row inmate I may very well want my remains to be used that way, too.

susanc's avatar

Thank you.

cyndyh's avatar

You’re welcome, susanc. It kind of beautiful if you think about it. The inmate gets to make a statement about his death after his death with his very body.

tWrex's avatar

Hey what should we do with all the fetuses sucked out of women’s vaginas? I say we throw it on the freeway and call it art.

cyndyh's avatar

tWrex, you’ve repeatedly equated feeding fish with a corpse to killing and endangering people. Do you really not see the distinction? What’s got you so riled about this?

tWrex's avatar

Ok. First let’s get this out of the way. I have not “repeatedly” done anything. To do so would be to say or do the same thing more than once, yet my comments do not remotely sound alike. Is it something on fluther to do that, because everyone has to make it sound like you’ve been a dick repeatedly or said something repeatedly, even though you haven’t. It’s ridiculous.

Now, I apologize if my words were brash – although I don’t see it. I’m not riled. I’m baffled. I, as an artist, find it retarded that people can use the word art so loosely. A black painting is not art. It’s some prick who’s trying to be existential and comment on “the ways of the world” or some other nonsensical crap. It’s idiotic. Art is created. This guy is creating fish food, which’ll eventually be fish crap.

Okey dokey. Endangering people. I never said the freeway was open, but lets assume it was and I’m just a dick. Ok. Fine. I’ll change my example. Let’s take the fetuses and put them on the sidewalk outside a major building in downtown somewhere… in a fishtank. Is that not just as disgusting? Forget that it’s even disgusting! Is it art? How?

With this ideology that turning the guy into fish crap is art, I think I’ll start my own canvas art called, the diarrhea diaries. Let’s go dulcolax! Now, is it art or just plain disgusting? I’m sorry. I just don’t get it. Tell you what. Call it recycling and I’m all over it.

cyndyh's avatar

tWrex, above you say, “I think someone should do the same thing to that bastard and call it art.” Then later you say, ”...throw it on the freeway and call it art.” That’s more than once that you have equated this with killing or endangering people. You’re using very violent terms, so I’d call that “riled”.

Did you see Bodies Revealed?

Is art never disgusting?

Is it not art if you just don’t like it or just if you don’t get it?

What makes you an artist?

Nimis's avatar

A body can be a medium for art. That isn’t my objection. It’s how it’s used. And I don’t mean that it necessarily has to be tasteful. But it should elicit something thoughtful. It can be shocking and distasteful and still be art. But just being shocking and distasteful doesn’t make it art.

tWrex's avatar

My reference was to the sick fuck that killed the dog in your first quote of mine. And the second time, I corrected myself so therefore I re-canted what you had assumed was “killing or endangering people” even though I never specified whether the freeway was opened or closed – and I bet if you did something like that, they’d close it. As far as violent terms go. The only word I really used that was violent, was bastard. You’ve already equated me with being riled, so you wont let that go and personally, I don’t care at this point.

To the rest of your points: 1) No I haven’t, but it looks very interesting. A scientific marvel at that. 2) Art can be disgusting yes. 3) The idea that you’ve tried to make me feel like a simpleton shows that you aren’t able to defend the points that I made. But good on for the insinuation. 4) I create something on a medium of my choice. Whether it be a computer, a napkin, a canvas, etc, I am CREATING something. All he is doing is destroying something.

Finally. I agree with @Nimis fully. The body can be a medium for art. Tattoos are a wonderful example. It can be shocking to see what people have on them. It can even be distasteful. But in the end, someone CREATED that on their skin. They may not be the artist, but they are the artists canvas, showing off their art in a different medium. Feeding a guy to fish is not art. We can call it Darwinism. We can call it Food. We can even call it Recycling. But it’s not art.

Nimis's avatar

trex: Do you think destruction can be art?

cyndyh's avatar

@tWrex, I pointed out to you what I meant by you speaking in violent terms and you have failed to recognize either that that was an explanation or that your terms were violent. “Bastard” is not a violent word. Whether or not you recanted has nothing to do with why you sound “riled”. That was what I explained to you.

I mentioned Bodies because it’s an example of the human body being used in art. It’s not used violently, and there were some fetuses in that exhibit. The whole exhibit was controversial. Some people called it disgusting. If you didn’t see it, you might want an explanation of what makes that art. But if you had seen it and walked through that exhibit I think you’d be hard pressed to not call it art. You might not like it or get it, though. So, I’m wondering where the line is for you. What makes it art or not art?

I haven’t tried to make you feel like a simpleton or “defend your points”. It’s up to you to defend your own points. You said that you “just don’t get it”, so that’s what I was asking about. Is it not art if you don’t get it?

As far as creating and destroying go, I think the destruction is a part of the point. The state would be the destroyer in this case since it’d be the killer of the man on death row. The artist is still creating an exhibit and a performance that makes a statement about that destruction. The history of the body in question is a part of the back-story.

So, you recognize the body as a medium -at least as a canvas. The artist we’re discussing is actually creating something. The process used to create it may or may not be interesting we don’t know yet. The artist is making a statement. What makes it not art to you?

Or is this only “not art” to you in the way that country music is “not music” to many people?

@Nimis: What makes it art or not art to you? I think this can “elicit something thoughtful”. I think it’ll depend a lot on the execution of the project. Yes, tasteless pun intended.

Nimis's avatar

Cynd: Nyuk.

gooch's avatar

First goldfish don’t eat meat they eat algae. Second he is nothing more than an attention seeker. I think they need to kill him then flush him like the human waste all death row scum is.

DrasticDreamer's avatar

Actually, some goldfish do eat meat. I had friends who had a goldfish that would eat nothing but steak. It’s besides the point, but it’s an interesting tidbit.

Knotmyday's avatar

Just plain disgusting.

tWrex's avatar

Just wanted to say that there are two reasons I haven’t responded – neither of which are lack of something to say: 1) You still dance around my points, so I will no longer entertain yours. 2) I’ve just returned from a 3 day hospital stay so at this point I don’t care to debate this anymore.

cyndyh's avatar

tWrex: I’ve addressed your points. You’ve failed to address most of mine. If you’re not interested in discussing this further so be it.

tWrex's avatar

Ok firstly, you continue your diatribe yet I’ve stated I no longer wished to entertain this conversation, but that’s ok. Let’s do it then. Now I’m riled.

You keep asking me why it’s not art. I have answered repeatedly why it’s not. I’ll just quote myself from my first post though: “Art is an expression of something. More importantly, it’s something you create. All you’re doing here is creating, in essence, shit.”

You couldn’t make me feel like a mother fuckin’ thing. I don’t feel like a simpleton. I said you’re attempting to make me feel that way, and you continue to do so. That’s cool though, because again, I don’t give a fuck. Now those are some violent terms.

Now I don’t live in Cali, so why would you want to attempt to use an exhibit featured in Cali to make a point and then attempt to chastise me and tell me that I “might not get it, though”. I wouldn’t bring up an exhibit from Cali to attempt to make a point to you either, since you don’t live there either. Furthermore, I can’t make any observations on whether or not it’s art or not, because I’ve never visited it.

Next point of yours. Using the term, “I just don’t get it,” is not normally equated with being lost about what one is talking about unless they’re asked a question like, “Do you understand high-poly meshes,” and you’re like, “No I just don’t get it”. But since my words are under scrutiny again from you, here ya go. I’ll rephrase it. I don’t get how this is art, because it contains no medium. Is that better?

Ok. I’ll give you that he’s got an exhibit. It’s an exhibit of goldfish. Ok. Would you go to PetLand and call the fish wall an exhibit? What if you could feed a dead dude to them? Would it be an exhibit then? The performance you speak of is not a performance at all. It’s a feeding. They’re feeding fish. Ok. So using that logic, whenever someone goes fishing they’re making art? They’re feeding the fish and making a statement that, “Tonight we dine with fish!”

However he makes the fish food, it’s still not art. It’s just fish food. If I go to Petland again, and pickup a can of bloodworms, am I an art connoisseur then? Then I could just feed the fish and get the whole shabang right there!

Your final point: Country music is art as much as any other musical genre. Just cause someone doesn’t like it, it doesn’t not make it art.

Did I cover all of your points now? I sure hope so. But I still didn’t see you take on my points. Like the next paragraph!

Ok. So you addressed this point right: “Let’s take the fetuses and put them on the sidewalk outside a major building in downtown somewhere… in a fishtank. Is that not just as disgusting? Forget that it’s even disgusting! Is it art? How?”

And what makes that “piece of art” I just alluded to violent? Just curious.

What about this point: “With this ideology that turning the guy into fish crap is art, I think I’ll start my own canvas art called, the diarrhea diaries. Let’s go dulcolax! Now, is it art or just plain disgusting?”

No you never even thought to discuss them. You skirted around them both by insinuating that I would willingly want to endanger people. If that’s how you’re addressing my points then sweet! I get it. Wait. Nope. I must be daft.

You fail to grasp that I’ve turned my words around and explained myself fairly clearly to you to help further the conversation, yet you’ve made no attempt to do so on your part. The sick bastard quote was for the dog killer. Yeah I’m riled about that. I love dogs. The fetus’ on the freeway. I never said the freeway was open. You assumed it was. Even when I changed what I said, you still ignored it and called me violent. If you can’t defend your point, shut the fuck up. Don’t sling mud.

Finally. Just because you support the point this guy is trying to make, it doesn’t make it art.


@nimis yes destruction can be artistic. Traditional sculpture done with marble is done by destroying that big piece of marble and creating something from it. People that create something from thrown away water bottles are using something that was destroyed – the bottles original purpose – and creating a tree or whatever they choose to make. Again, we see a key word here. They created something. The creation of shit, or even fish food is not artsy. Throw some glitter on it and it’ll still be shit or fish food. It’ll just glisten then.

poofandmook's avatar

Well, since you both have made your little argument public, I’m going to assume that it’s also up for commenting and/or debate. So since I’ve been sort of “duped” into reading this drivel, I’m going to throw my two cents in.

tWrex may have some overly colorful language, and may say things that offend the general sensibilities of people (about the fetuses), but that doesn’t say anything about the endangerment of people. And even if you could construe the comment about the fetuses as the endangerment of the unborn and the mother, it definitely wasn’t “repeatedly”... it was one statement. Saying that the guy who tied up the dog should be made to suffer the same thing as the dog… I think it’s a very large stretch to group him into the “endangerment” argument. He’s not being endangered if someone ties him up. He’d be art, in his mind… the subject of his own concept! Brilliant. If only we could all be so honored in life :P

I really think tWrex shouldn’t have to explain every tiny detail of his reasoning. He already stated why he didn’t think it was art. It’s not as though this is as important as, say, who he’s going to vote for as President.

I for one am more concerned about the three-day hospital stay. So I’m going to private message him and inquire about it… in private messages… where I try to do my off-topic business.

tWrex's avatar

Well, I’m voting for Cindy Lauper. I’ll just get that out there for everyone.

cyndyh's avatar

@poof: Your two cents are clearly welcome in a public forum. Thanks for chiming in. :^> We were discussing what makes something art or not which is the topic of this question. In order to determine whether something is or isn’t art you need to look at what your definition of art is. Explaining your reasoning is what a discussion is about.

@tWrex: You say “Art is an expression of something. More importantly, it’s something you create. All you’re doing here is creating, in essence, shit.” I’ve offered possibilities for what this artist could be expressing with this kind of work. You’ve recognized that something is being created when you later talked about the exhibit being created. So, by your own stated definition the piece in question is art. If it’s not art to you there’s something else that’s not been stated in your definition.

That’s why I’ve been trying to find out what else is behind your definition. I’ve offered other possibilities. Does it have to do with the medium, the process, intent of the artist, whether you get something on your “end of the communication” so to speak, or if you just stated this in an off-hand way? Hence, the example I gave about country music.

By my definition this is art, and many of your examples (yes, including shit on canvas) can be art depending on the intent of the artist. Whether they’d be recognized by most people as art, or whether they’d be considered any good, or whether I think such a project should be funded, or whether I’d find any merit in them or not are all completely different questions.

Bodies was in most major cities across the US not just in California. I offered it as an example that might shed some light on the discussion.

I’ll tell you again that I never tried to make you feel any way at all. You’re reading things into my words that aren’t there.

hammer43's avatar

it sounds sick to me, I wouldn’t want to touch any dead person never the less feed them to fish.

scamp's avatar

@cyndyh You said: We were discussing what makes something art or not which is the topic of this question.

Since I asked the question, let me make the topic a little more clear to you. I asked about this particlular project, and wanted to know if people thought it was art, or an attention-getting stunt. I wanted people’s opinions, and both you and twrex gave yours. It’s obvious you feel differently than he does about this. I don’t think brow beating him with your opinion will change his mind. Can’t you just agree to disagree and call it a day?

cyndyh's avatar

@scamp: We’ve done just that.

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