Sunday, May 31, 2009
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Thursday, May 14, 2009
Wednesday, May 6, 2009
The Village Pet Store and Charcoal Grill
Banksy Exhibition in New York City
Reviewed by Julie Ashcraft
Smiling adults and cheery children wait patiently outside before gaining free admittance to this popular exhibition. Why isn’t one of the children riding the mechanical dolphin out front? Well, the dolphin is covered with a net. Does that mean it’s broken? No. Why is the rabbit in the window putting on lipstick? Cosmetics are tested on the eyes and skin of–wait! Are those baby chicks in the next window? OMG, those are little chicken nuggets dipping themselves in sauce!!
Central to this whimsical nightmare of a show is the sad fact that factory-farmed food is consumed by many people who seem completely detached from the knowledge that what they are eating WAS EVER ALIVE. But the charming, kinetic creatures in this exhibit seem to elicit empathy more than guilt, making the work in this show most effective. After all, guilt is its own reward. Empathy could be more likely to trigger a change in consumer behavior. This may be the goal of Banksy, the artist reportedly behind “The Village Pet Store and Charcoal Grill”.
Banksy’s name does not appear in the exhibition. His name is only hinted at in tiny print on the “The Village Pet Store and Grill” business cards discretely stacked at the side on the “store’s” counter. Happy fans of Banksy visiting this “store” at 89 Seventh Avenue South in Manhattan confirm that it is his work, and that a philanthropist reportedly provided backing. Buzz for Banksy’s show is generated by word of mouth, and by a plethora of reportage, photos and videos of the installation on internet art sites including www.woostercollective.com and the www.thevillagepetstoreandcharcoalgrill.com.
The workers behind the counter encourage all to document the show, which ends October 30, 2008. Being allowed to photograph the art is a refreshing change from many galleries and museums not allowing even non-flash photography. But then again, documentation and animal interaction with cameras is another theme in this installation.
Structuralist Julia Kristeva wrote that art is the intersection of viewer and object. Believing this to be especially true for this exhibition–I recommended it to a slender, young, female vegetarian and to a heavy, middle-aged, male meat-eater, to compare responses. Vegetarian and PeTA enthusiast, Jennifer Moy, told me, “I like the rabbit one. I thought that was really sad.” She remarked on the humanness of the exhibition’s ape’s expression, found it disturbing he was watching porn (monkeys copulating). She said the chicken nuggets dipping themselves in sauce were “fun”, yet was disturbed by a group of sausages that were moving (on a rock inside a terrarium).
Omnivour Ambrose Benkert looked upon those same sausages–and some moving hot dogs in buns–with a big smile, then said, “It’s like revenge of the hot dogs! We’ve been eating them all these years. Now they’re going to eat us!” Later, over a chicken burrito, Ambrose said about the show, “It was innovative–not the sort of thing you see every day. What do you call it–moving food, mobile food? It didn’t instill in me the desire to become a vegetarian, but it was innovative.”
This article originally was published here: