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Some of you may have heard about the recent sensational story coming out of the Alberta College of Art + Design here in Calgary. A young art student did a performance piece that was intended to challenge our notions about our food and ethical treatment of animals and instead it has turned into a hot debate on the ethical treatment of a human being. A public media firestorm ensued and the College, rather than defend its students or staff, fired a 32 year veteran “Permanent” instructor who was much loved and respected.
In an age when you can see a painting of the Holy Virgin done in excrement, a dead bull in formaldehyde or an unmade bed complete with semen stains on the sheets in a major metropolitan city museum, I am truly saddened at the outcome to this performance. I’m not saying that I believe it was the right thing to do to allow the student to kill a chicken in front of a large number of other students, at least without prior setting of certain parameters and given warnings but I don’t think it was right to fire the instructor. I can imagine this was new ground for the instructor as new ground is being laid in contemporary art, particularly performance art, on the world stage everyday and that he probably didn’t know exactly how it should have been handled. And for this, he lost his job of 32 years and has been hung out by the college as a scapegoat.
I guess the chicken was more valuable than the goat.