The Museum of Contemporary Art (MAC) in Lyon, France has removed a video of living chickens in flames from the Algerian artist Adel Abdessemed’s exhibition The Antidote following social media outcry. The artist employed a team of special effects technicians to reproduce the effect of live fire but did not harm any animals in the process. The video, Printemps, contains a trigger warning and was shown in a separate room to the rest of the show, which explores narratives of violence.
This did not prevent a social media storm from unfolding. One Twitter user labelled the artwork “a barbaric deviance.” Another likened the situation to the Swedish film The Square, in which an esteemed gallery releases a grotesque ad of a young child being blown up to draw the media’s attention to an exhibition.
In an open letter published by on MAC’s Twitter account, the gallery announced that both the institution and artist had made the decision to remove the video from The Antidote. The letter went on to state that “Printemps is an allegory for violence, especially that inflicted on animals, which the artist repeatedly denounces in many other works and interviews.” The gallery also compared the controversy to an “unfair trial” against Adel who has been engaged in animal rights activism for years.
This is not the first time Adel has become the subject of controversy. The San Fransisco Art Institution cancelled his 2008 show Don’t Trust Me due to complaints about graphic videos of animals being slaughtered.
The Guggenheim found itself in a similar situation last year. The esteemed gallery withdrew three artworks from its exhibition Art and China after 1989: Theatre of the World after animal rights activists created a petition that declared the pieces “instances of unmistakable cruelty against animals in the the name of art".
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