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Furure continues over ‘art’ dog

ANGER continues over the death of a dog, allegedly starved to death in the corner of an art gallery ‘to make an artistic point’.

Over two million people have already signed an internet petition expressing their disgust at artist, Guillermo Vargas. People from across the world are also calling for Vargas to be prosecuted and are demanding that his coming exhibits at the Central American Biennial art exhibition in Honduras be rejected.

The ‘installation’ of the stray dog was part of an August 2007 exhibition at the Codice Gallery in Managua, Nicaragua. According to a description of the work on the website, the artist also used dog biscuits to spell out the words ‘Eres Lo Que Lees’ (‘You are what you read’) on a nearby wall while playing the Sandanista anthem backwards and burning 175 pieces of crack cocaine in an incense burner.

In interviews, Vargas has said his inspiration came from a video about an indigent crack addict named Natividad Canda who received no help from nearby police or firemen when he was attacked and killed by guard dogs while trespassing on private property in Costa Rica. People who viewed the video were disgusted, Vargas says, and he aimed to provoke the same reaction in those who viewed his artwork.

The allegation is that the dog was constantly tethered, went unfed, and ultimately died over the course of several days. However, according to Codice Gallery director Juanita Bermúdez this was not the case. She said the dog was only restrained during the three hours the exhibition lasted, and it was fed regularly with dog food the artist himself brought in. As far as she knows the dog is still alive as it escaped the next day and was not seen again.

Her account has met with scepticism, however, because the artist refuses to confirm or deny her version of events, insisting he wants to ‘retain the doubt’ about what actually happened. In fact, Vargas seems pleased with the international uproar he has caused, claiming he intended all along to use the media to reach a larger audience with his message. At the same time, he warns observers not to take for granted that everything they have seen or read about the exhibit is true. ‘I think the immediate reaction is to believe what it says in the petition,’ he said in an interview published on the Internet, ‘but the human eye is treacherous.’

Vargas is still expected to exhibit at the Central American Biennial in Honduras, though the specifics of his work have not yet been made public. ‘Even I do not know,’ he said during an interview in March. ‘I am working on some ideas.’ He refused top say whether his work would include dogs. Vargas said he wanted to test the public's reaction, and insisted none of the exhibition visitors intervened to stop the animal's suffering. He refused to say whether the animal had survived the show, but said he had received dozens of death threats.