the process is the artwork

‘Every life has a right to exist for it own sake’

Keeping pets for companionship (or research) is a dilemma, and one should at the very least give it a thought.

Below are two artworks by german artist Hans Haacke, questioning the consequences and ethics of human interference in nature.

Hans Haacke. Rhine-Water Purification Plant (1972). Rhine-water, glass bottles, acrylic containers, charcoal and sand filter, hose, goldfish. Dimensions variable Installation, Museum Haus Lange, Krefeld. "Haacke obtained polluted Rhine-water from a Krefeld sewage plant. The water was pumped into an elevated acrylic basin from large glass bottles in the gallery in which the water was stored. Chemicals were injected into the water to cause the pollutants to settle. The sedimentation process continued in a second acrylic container. From there the partially purified water flowed through a charcoal and a sand filter and eventually dropped into a large basin with goldfish. A hose carried the overflow out to the garden, where it seeped into the ground and joined the ground water level. This work, which resembled a laboratory experiment, called into question a specific environmental problem - water pollution in Krefeld, where the Rhine was used as the repository of raw industrial and household sewage. The goldfish tank was set in front of a view of wooded landscape behind the museum, establishing a dialogue between two eco-systems, one life-supporting, one on the verge of collapse." (ref: Kastner and Walls, (eds). 1998. Land and Environmental Art. London: phaidon Press Ltd, p.141)

Hans Haacke. Rhine-Water Purification Plant (1972).
Rhine-water, glass bottles, acrylic containers, charcoal and sand filter, hose, goldfish.
Dimensions variable
Installation, Museum Haus Lange, Krefeld.

“Haacke obtained polluted Rhine-water from a Krefeld sewage plant. The water was pumped into an elevated acrylic basin from large glass bottles in the gallery in which the water was stored. Chemicals were injected into the water to cause the pollutants to settle. The sedimentation process continued in a second acrylic container. From there the partially purified water flowed through a charcoal and a sand filter and eventually dropped into a large basin with goldfish. A hose carried the overflow out to the garden, where it seeped into the ground and joined the ground water level. This work, which resembled a laboratory experiment, called into question a specific environmental problem – water pollution in Krefeld, where the Rhine was used as the repository of raw industrial and household sewage. The goldfish tank was set in front of a view of wooded landscape behind the museum, establishing a dialogue between two eco-systems, one life-supporting, one on the verge of collapse.” (1) p.141

Hans Haacke. Ten Turtles Set Free (1970). 20 July 1970, St. Paul-de-Vence, france. "In a metaphorical gesture Haacke purchased ten turtles (an endangered species) from a pet shop and later released them into a forest near St. Paul-de-Vence, south of France. This was a symbolic act which called into question human interference with the freedom of animals and their imprisoned position as pets. This was one of the first works to dramatize human disregard to animals and their threatened status. Haackes's liberation of the turtles was an acknowledgement of a principle of environmental ethics - that every life has a right to exist for it own sake." (ref: Kastner and Walls, (eds). 1998. Land and Environmental Art. London: phaidon Press Ltd, p.140)

Hans Haacke. Ten Turtles Set Free (1970).
20 July 1970, St. Paul-de-Vence, france.

“In a metaphorical gesture Haacke purchased ten turtles (an endangered species) from a pet shop and later released them into a forest near St. Paul-de-Vence, south of France. This was a symbolic act which called into question human interference with the freedom of animals and their imprisoned position as pets. This was one of the first works to dramatize human disregard to animals and their threatened status. Haackes’s liberation of the turtles was an acknowledgement of a principle of environmental ethics – that every life has a right to exist for it own sake.”(1) p.140

Sources:
(1) Kastner and Walls, (eds). 1998. Land and Environmental Art. London: phaidon Press Ltd, p.141)

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