21 abril 2008

Interview with Polly Buchanan

Polly - How did you hear about this exhibition?

Jaime - As an animal activist I have several alarm systems in place. One of them pointed me to an article in the Costa Rica daily newspaper La Nacion, about a Costa Rican artist who had used as his exhibit a dog, which he had sent boys to chase and bring to him. The newspaper stated that the dog had died the day following its capture.

Polly - How many people have signed your petition?

Jaime - To date 2,520,200 people have signed the petition for Vargas to be excluded from the Sixth Biennale of Visual Arts of the Central American Isthmus, to be held in Honduras. If the events which took place in the Codice Gallery in Managua (Nicaragua) had occurred in Europe, the director of the Gallery Mrs. Juanita Bermudez and the artist would both be in prison, but in Nicaragua, where there are no laws that protect animals, what Vargas did was not a crime. Our request is to those countries which DO have such laws - Costa Rica, for them not to send an animal abuser to the Bienalle, and Honduras, for them not to permit his participation. This is the only way that Vargas can be punished for what he did.

Polly - How do you feel about the reaction you've had?

Jaime - A huge majority of people all over the world are sensitized about the question of cruelty to animals. This is the normal reaction of people who do not accept that anyone has the right to use animals in the name of art, or in the name of anything else, and even less, to abuse them. What I do not understand is how this unprecedented and massive world reaction is receiving so little attention. Mr. Vargas obviously enjoys special status. The question is who is protecting him, and why ?

Polly - When in 2007 did the artist take the first dog?

Jaime - I am only aware of the one occasion when Mr. Vargas ordered the pursuing and capturing of the Dog from Managua in August 2007, when it became a part of his exhibition in the Codice Gallery.

Polly - What happened to that dog?

Jaime - The article stating that the dog died the next day is in the archives of the Costa Rican daily, La Nacion. I would presume that the most prestigious daily newspaper in the country would check its information carefully before going to print. The dog's demise is also noted in the blog where you can view photographs of him tied up in the Codice Gallery.

Two months after the fact, 0n 19th October 2007, the Gallery Director came out with this statement, "Surprisingly, at dawn on Friday 17th, the dog escaped through the iron bars of the front entrance to the building, while the night-watchman who had just fed him was cleaning the area".

Now -

* We all know that if you give food to a hungry dog, he isn't going to run away.
* If on the 17th August 2007 the dog was alive and the newspaper La Nacion stated that it had died, why didn't the Gallery Director oblige the newspaper to retract? To date, she has STILL not asked the paper to make any kind of rectification. All she did was put out the statement on the internet on 19th October, two months after the dog escaped – according to her.
* The person who committed the act will not comment on what happened to the dog.

Rational thinking tells us that the dog died, possibly as a result of the abuse he was subjected to. But we have no photographs to show, nor any other proof, to accuse Vargas of biocide (unnecessarily causing the death of an animal). However, we do have photos of the dog while he was alive, and we can plainly see the state he was in, so we know without a doubt what his condition was when he was dragged into the gallery. We accuse Vargas of violating Article 10 of the Universal Declaration of Animal Rights, and of having committed an act of abuse in that he trapped and kept a sick dog tied up for his own benefit.

Polly - What is he planning for the latest exhibition?

Jaime - You will have to ask Vargas that. I am an animal activist, not an art connoisseur, and I am not even slightly interested in this man's artistic career.

Polly - When will this be?

Jaime - If you mean when will the VI Biennale of Visual Arts of the Central American Isthmus take place, my information is that it will open on 16th November 2008.

Polly - What would you like to see happen to the artist?

Jaime - I would want to see the wishes of two and a half million people realized. If we bear in mind that, had this macabre event taken place in a European gallery Mr. Vargas as the material author of the act, and his accomplice Mrs. Bermudez, would now be in prison, then asking that he be excluded from the most important artistic event in Central America would be no more than making a mischievous little boy go without his dessert. But what it WOULD do is close the door to any other artist who might think that anything is permissible in the name of art. Yesterday it was a dog, tomorrow it could be a child, a woman . . .

But in spite of it all, I am still not very hopeful about the outcome. Not only do we have the Minister of Culture of Costa Rica refusing to prevent Vargas from representing his country in the Honduras Biennale, but we also have the World Society for the Protection of Animals, now partnering with "Art Impresarios", the association that promotes Vargas, saying that they will overlook the cruelty meted out to the Dog from Managua so long as he does not exhibit another dog in the Honduras Biennale." Thus, WSPA is flying in the face of the more than two and a half million people, who are clamouring for "the minimum" punishment for Vargas, while at the same time pardoning the artist, without him having shown the smallest sign of remorse, or having once asked for forgiveness.

WSPA leaves the door wide open for any other abuser to go unpunished, just as long as that person, or someone representing him, says he will not repeat the act.

Jaime Sancho

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