Marketing stunt or genuine attempt at “art?”

Costa Rican artist Guillermo Vargas Habacuc recently used a dog in a gallery exhibit. The internet is aflurry with protests. I noticed in Facebook today some friends joined a group encouraging people to sign a petition against such future exhibits, which is where I learned of the artist in the first place.

I did a little digging — namely following link to link from the Facebook group page — and was quickly confused. Information just isn’t matching up here. For starters, some people are saying the dog, reportedly a stray from the streets of Managua, Nicaragua, was starved to death as part of the original exhibition (which is what the Facebook group in question purports). A number of other resources, including the gallery owner, claim the dog was only on display for three hours and was fed regularly by the artist himself when not part of the exhibit. Further, the Wikipedia page on the artist says that he was born in 1975. Another link I found — a dubious URL at — complained about the artist changing his statements, the most recent of which quoted him saying “I am 50 years old.”

At this point I decided the chance of finding any really reliable information was unlikely (Although I do put a lot of faith, personally, in Wikipedia, and believe this is probably the most accurate representation of the circumstances that I read.), and had become more interested in how a story could spread so quickly and inaccurately via the Web. I fear people become too emotionally involved. When presented with a certain kind of story or anecdote, they believe the first thing they hear.

I don’t know what happened in that gallery, but at this point (sadly) it doesn’t matter. If the artist was after publicity, he got it. If he was trying in earnest to make a point, it’s been lost in the impassioned pleas of dog lovers who don’t seem to be remotely concerned with factual inconsistencies surrounding the event.

I really like the internet, particularly email, Facebook, blogging and live radar on But above all I love the internet’s ability to bring people together. The aforementioned group is bringing people together, more than 500,000 so far. Unfortunately, the cause isn’t verifiable. People may be putting a lot of energy into a whole lot of nothing.

In a world where information is more and more prevalent, it’s more and more difficult — regardless of the source — to determine what is the best kind of information. One week eggs are bad for you, the next they’re not. Atkins diet this month, South Beach the next. You get the picture; you’re probably living it. Trying to make sense of the massive amount of information presented to us on a daily basis is a real talent.


About pcNielsen
Paul Nielsen founded The Aesthetic Elevator late in 2005. He owns a piece of paper, located somewhere in his house (not on the wall), stating that he earned a B.F.A. from the University of Nebraska around about 2001. While there, he studied studied architecture, graphic design and ceramics, graduating with a degree in studio art. Paul presently serves as communications manager for a small non-profit doing their print design and marketing. He spends as much time sculpting in his studio as possible — which is not nearly enough. Visit his website at

2 Responses to Marketing stunt or genuine attempt at “art?”

  1. Tim J. says:

    The World Wide Web… The Disinformation Superhighway.

  2. nataJane says:

    I saw this too! (also on Facebook) I’m glad to hear of someone who actually digs to find the truth about this stuff… So many people just read it online and assume it’s true. It’s pretty sad.

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