The Use Of Animals In Contemporary Art

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Immersing a killed shark in a glass tank filled with formaldehyde, Damien Hirst created the most famous contemporary artwork The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living in 1991 (Brisman, 2011). In contemporary art, animals no longer presented as images in paintings, sculptures, and photographs. In recent years, animals, both dead and alive ones are used in art exhibitions. The use of animal in art ignited heated debates about the moral dilemma between artistic freedom and animal rights. This essay will first examine the underlying principle of using real animals in contemporary art, and will then discuss the opposing view from the society, and eventually clarify the line between art and crime. Underlying principles of using real animals in contemporary art In contemporary art, animals appear physically rather than symbolically in art galleries, in order to produce shock effect which outrage audiences and test the moral baseline of society. In fact, killing animals to produce powerful effect is not a concept originated from art. In 1903, Thomas Edison filmed the electrocution of an elephant. It was one of his advertising campaigns proving that the DC system invented by him was more powerful than present AC electric current (Lippit, 2002). However, slaughter of animal in art is not merely a shock factor to raise publicity. There are other purposes of using animals in various art forms as transgressive art, shock art and BioArt. First, use of animal in

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