**Update** 3.31.08
The exhibition has been canceled due to threats. It is still not clear whether ADEL killed the animals himself, or documented their slaughter at the hands of Farm Workers (who typically use sledgehammers ??). If anyone can provide the information to sort out any confusion, it would be appreciated. Was this documentation or was it staged specifically for exhibition? The answer could draw a significant line between useful discourse to help animals and expose a cruel practice, and an artist who bludgeoned animals for himself for shock-value.
I am receiving many angry emails. I want to clarify - documenting animal cruelty is one of the most powerful tools animal advocates have. Look at the Hallmark beef recall case. It's not that animal advocates can't handle seeing these images - quite the contrary - it's because of these images many of us have become animal advocates in the first place.  The problem is that the context of these brutalities is out of sight and the gallery has not provided information or clarity regarding what happened here - which surely would be expected had these animals been dogs, cats, or people. Of course there is outrage when the public is allowed to assume that 'someone has bludgeoned Bambi for an art exhibit'.
It has been brought to my attention that an Algerian artist by the name of ADEL ABDESSEMED will be having an exhibition called "Don’t Trust Me" at the San Francisco Art Institute (see below for details), that documents his killing, via sledgehammer, of six animals — a sheep, a horse, an ox, a pig, a goat, and a doe. Worst of all, it was partly paid for by tax money (Grants for the Arts/San Francisco Hotel Tax Fund). http://www.waltermcbean.com/current.shtml

As it stands, the exhibition is ‘suspended’ (http://www.sfai.edu/page.aspx?page=285&navID=587&sectionID=4) due to public outcry. We need to make sure it is cancelled all-together and additionally send a message so shock-artists like ADEL ABDESSEMED know that they are not welcome to exhibit so irresponsibly.

Abdessemed is an artist sensitive to racism, fascism, political corruption, and similar ideas, yet he fails to recognize the individual animal's intrinsic value, and will to live - or he does and perverts it for the sake of his video. The latter would be considered sociopathic.

Controversy has always been a shock-artists best friend. One major concern in addressing this issue is that, like Damien Hirst and other artists who brutalize, mutilate, and kill animals in the name of Art, they do so because they know it will get a huge controversial response from press and people like us. Because it is impossible to define what art is, it becomes difficult to deconstruct and criticize the artist without bringing attention and thus money/power/influence to them and the institution that is featuring this brutality. On the website, they are practically asking for this response "Do these incidents represent slaughter or sacrifice? What are their social, cultural, moral, and political implications?" as if brutality towards animals has been undocumented thus far.

There are three major avenues to pursue this: Confront the Institute, confront the artist, subvert and reclaim the art (take and use it's imagery to bring attention to the plight of the animals and the unethical pursuit of notoriety by the artist by reformatting the art in a way that calls attention to animal cruelty).

I suggest writing letters to the SFAI, the artist, and collaborating parties. Here is one example:

To Whom It May Concern,

I was shocked and saddened to learn that ADEL ABDESSEMED has murdered six animals with a sledge hammer - documented it, and is using the institutions of art to promote his 'work'. Thank you for suspending the show – I urge you to cancel it all-together.

If you believe that ADEL ABDESSEMED is bringing something to light in his shock-art video, "Don't Trust Me", you should take his advice. Raising moral, ethical, and socio-political questions concerning brutality towards animals is not something that requires gallery culture to ignite public discussion. Nor do we need an artist to document himself taking the lives of animals in order to discuss issues of any ethical nature.

On the contrary, his work is invalid and spurious; hundreds of organizations globally document acts of unimaginable brutality towards animals every single day and take action to stop it - and not only do they raise these same questions in a much larger arena, but the documentation is not staged for the sake of shocking an audience - it is the true perilous documentation of a systemic ruthlessness that happens again and again every single day.

Can you image what would be said of an artist that beats a woman to supposedly call attention to sexism - or an artist that brutalizes a child to call attention to the socio-political issues surrounding child abuse? I don’t need to continue the comparisons which go on and on.

I can only believe that ADEL ABDESSEMED is a shock-artist whose hunger for attention has led him to committing heinous acts under the guise of philosophical inquiry. Had he done his research, he would have realized that his quest for exploring animal brutality has already been well underway by countless individuals, organizations, and institutions for almost a century - and these superfluous murders prove nothing more than his lack of research and empathy.

I urge you to publicly discuss the invalidity of this exhibition, and pull any funding for unethical artists like ABDESSEMED.


Information on the Exhibiton and who to send letters to:

exhibitions@sfai.edu San Francisco Art Institute Contact: Public Relations 415 749 4507

Please join Director of Exhibitions and Public Programs Hou Hanru (the exhibition’s curator), Dean of Academic Affairs Okwui Enwezor, and SFAI Professors John Rapko and Tony Labat in a public discussion of the exhibition at 12noon on Monday, March 31, in the Lecture Hall on SFAI’s 800 Chestnut Street campus.

Exhibition Dates: 20 March - 31 May, 2008 Opening Reception: Wednesday, March 19th, 5:30 - 7:30 Artist Workshop: Tuesday, March 18th, 4:30 - 7:30 Visiting Artists and Scholars lecture: Wednesday, March 19th 7:30 (Free and open to the public)

SFAI’s exhibitions and public programs—a component of which is the Visiting Artists and Scholars Lecture Series—are supported in part by the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, the Peter Norton Family Foundation, and the Grants for the Arts/San Francisco Hotel Tax Fund. Additional funding for the Visiting Artists and Scholars Lecture Series has been provided by Bob and Betty Klausner. Additional support for Adel Abdessemed’s exhibition, as well as for his Visiting Artists and Scholars lecture, has been provided by the Cultural Services of the French Consulate in San Francisco.