"Artist" starves a dog to death as a work of art

Kitty Diggins's picture

Here's a link to my latest blog giving an update on the below situation.

From AMP member Kitty Diggins:

An "artist" from Costa Rica - Guillermo Habacuc Vargas - as an installation piece took a dog from the street and caused it to suffer and starve to death in the name of Art.

It looked like this (click on link and scroll down):

While I do not believe in censorship, I do believe that a line must be drawn when it involves taking an unwilling model and using them against their wishes. Maybe it is not very humane of me, but I strongly believe that people who use and abuse animals, or people for that matter, for any reason, deserve to have the same thing happen to them. It may be an old cliché that many artists suffer in various ways for their work, but causing another being to suffer is another story.

I did not compose the following letter. I believe it was composed by a British artist. I am reposting it and encourage you to examine it and do something about it. Read on, as more information follows the letter.



Centro Nacional de la Cultura
Antigua Fábrica Nacional de Licores.
Avenida 3, calle 15/17. San José, Costa Rica.
Teléfono: (506) 257 7202 / 257 9370
Fax: (506) 257 8702


I am writing regarding the horrifying actions of Guillermo Habacuc Vargas, who paid local children to catch a dog on the street and then confined, starved and publicly displayed the dog as an "art" exhibit until the innocent animal died of starvation.

I, along with many people worldwide, am outraged that Guillermo Habacuc Vargas has been selected to represent Costa Rica in "Bienal Centroamericana Honduras 2008.” This man is by no definition of the word an artist. He is a criminally insane sadist and enjoys inflicting prolonged suffering upon his innocent victims. He is a danger to all of society, as it is well-documented that those with the capacity to intentionally cause harm to an animal have the same capacity to harm humans. To state that this animal would have died eventually of natural causes is unjustifiable and defies logical, rational thought.

To allow Guillermo Habacuc Vargas to represent Costa Rica in Bienal Centroamericana Honduras 2008 will in no way benefit Costa Rica. The world is watching, and the actions of this so-called artist have brought many negative assumptions as to the humanity of the people of Costa Rica. The fact that many witnesses of this animal’s suffering did nothing, and that the organizers of this event allowed this to happen, rather than taking action to see that Guillermo Vargas be criminally charged with animal abuse, is sending the world a message that Costa Rica is a cruel, uncivilized society that has no regard for life, but enjoys viewing and contributing to the loss of life.

Each and every person who knew of and witnessed the suffering of this innocent dog is guilty of causing its unnecessary death. To let this crime go unpunished, and instead to reward Guillermo Vargas by choosing him to represent Costa Rica in Bienal Centroamericana Honduras 2008 is unacceptable and shameful, not only to Costa Rica but to all participants in this event.

I urge you, do not condone the heinous actions of Guillermo Vargas by allowing him to participation in Bienal Centroamericana Honduras 2008. He should be jailed and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law for this animal’s death, and should not be allowed to represent Costa Rica as an artist, for to refer to him as such is an insult to all true artists.


Your Name

This is the email address to a gallery which currently holds some of Vargas' work for display and sale. If anyone would like to ask the gallery to drop him from their list of artists the email address is below.

Email address: info@jacobkarpio-galeria.com

What he says on his blog (translated):

I knew the dog died on the following day from lack of food. During the inauguration, I knew that the dog was persecuted in the evening between the houses of aluminum and cardboard in a district of Managua. 5 children who helped to capture the dog received 10 bonds of córdobas for their assistance. During the exhibition some people requested the freedom of the small dog, which the artist refused. The name of the dog was Natividad, and I let him die of hunger in the sight of everyone, as if the death of a poor dog was a shameless media show in which nobody does anything but to applaud or to watch disturbed. In the place that the dog was exposed remain a metal cable and a cord. The dog was extremely ill and did not want to eat, so in natural surroundings it would have died anyway; thus they are all poor dogs: sooner or later they die or are killed.

VIEW AND SIGN THIS PETITION: http://www.petitiononline.com/13031953/petition.html

HERE IS HIS MYSPACE PAGE (Guillermo Habacuc Vargas): http://www.myspace.com/casitadetentaciones

Eliza Mae Marlie's picture

I am appalled

I live in Dharamsala, India, where the people are kind, but often poor, and many street dogs die of disease, injury, or resulting starvation. It is unfortunate in these “third-world” societies that these sweet and loving animals sometimes become too sick and depressed to eat, and then starve to death. The locals here don’t know what to do about it- they can barely afford their own healthcare, and many of the people are sick and dying too! And animal aid societies are few and far between in countries that are only beginning to provide adequate social services for humans. Two months ago, my husband and I took one of these dogs off the street, and it only cost about $50 (and many long, sleepless nights) to take him from the brink of death by starvation and maggot-infested wounds to what he is today- the happy, wonderful, sweetheart that is curled up beside my chair right now. But I have never seen something as horrible as this “artist”! And Vincent, the doggy we rescued, was MUCH sicker than the poor animal that this horrible man has now killed for recreation. I am appalled. I spent three weeks FORCING Vincent to eat to stay alive, by using a syringe to put food directly down his throat. And everytime he would throw it up, we would start all over again. And it is sickening that this “artist” (a Costa Rican, no less, and I’ve spent alot of time in Costa Rica- it is a beautiful country that prides itself on its eco-diversity) and his patrons allowed this to happen. Today, in response to seeing this monstrosity of “art,” my husband and I went out and rescued another street doggy from certain death from mange and infection. We’ve seen her at the bus station, and knew that she needed medical treatment, so that is what we did- we went to the pharmacy and bought the necessary supplies and administered them ourselves. And you would not believe how many smiles and thanks we got from the locals who watched us help her.

We believe that it is important to spread happiness and peace, and to allow others to see us do good deeds. It improves our mood. It improves the mood of the bystanders. And it improves our world. Don’t let this horrible “artist” turn you into someone like him. Don’t wish awful experiences on him and the others who allowed this to happen. Sign the petition, yes. He and his supporters should know that there are moral and ethical people out there who disapprove! Hit him in the pocketbook and the ego, and make his “art” un-fashionable and worthless. And then use your outrage to make a positive difference in the lives of other animals and people of third-world nations. Fundraise, donate, or, if you are inclined, get out there and make a difference first-hand by setting up your OWN animal aid society in a third world country. That is what my husband and I have decided to do. We are beginning the planning processes of organizing an animal aid society here in Dharamsala to provide on-street medical care, catch-and-release spay and neuter services, a small dog shelter for sick and aggressive animals, and public information campaigns for the doggies of Dharamsala.

See the pictures of the Dharamsala doggies here: http://vincents-left-ear.blogspot.com/

In solidarity for our furry friends,

Eliza Mae Marlie

Farzad's picture

Just Wrong!

I think we should tie him in a corner of a gallery!

so upset to hear this in the name of art, in the name of anything, it is just wrong.

Skip247's picture

Dog starved for art?

This whole episode is disgusting, from getting the idea in the first place through to the gallery exhibiting the work. There is a massive difference between a poor being dying naturally and making an exhibition of it's suffering. I too will be making my protest.



Live Free! (Or, at least, very cheaply).

Laanni's picture

Let's do it together!

The Gallery is as responsible as the deeply mentally disturbed f--k himself. Let's put that place out of business!!!! That would teach them what art is! I have already written about that gallery to CNN. Please do the same.
Here is a link for CNN http://edition.cnn.com/feedback/forms/form1.html?40

pixelform's picture


There is one image taken of the installation that strikes me as being key to interpreting this piece.

[Image Linked Here]

It says it all. We have failed. The piece can be viewed as a question probing the constitution of our moral fabric. There are a handful of pieces that tempt the notion of the boundary between art and gallery guest. The one which frst comes to mind is 'Public Fountain LSD Hall' by Klaus Weber. In Weber's piece he tempts us to test the trust between ourselves and the truthfulness of his claim stated through the title of the piece (Is the fountain in fact filled with LSD laced liquid?). There is one only way to find out. One can simply reach over the glass barrier, meanwhile alert security, and sample the fountain's fruits for themselves but it is not simply a matter of crossing a physical boundary. The glass is there to indicate the relationship between the establishment of the gallery art and the gallery guest. There is a lack of trust that forces boundaries between a work and the guest. Weber most likely intentionally erected the glass wall around his fountain to appease the gallery owners and simultaneously make an appeal to the guests to reach over the glass and through this boundary. While Habacuc's starving dog is of a radically different nature, it clearly is calling for the guests of the gallery to cross a line drawn between that of the gallery (signifying here the whole of cultural activities) and the guest. The line between art establishment (gallery, artist, et. al.) and guest (spectator)is still drawn along the notion of intervention; touching or disturbing a work, however the stakes seem much higher here than in Weber's 'Public Fountain'. Rather than being temped into a potentially mind altering experience at the expense of being carted away by local authorities and charged with public intoxication at the very most, Habacuc has put the guests in a position to question their own moral responsibility. Failure to act to save the dog indicates a process of rationalization on behalf of the guest (be mindful that the same sort of process ensured the execution of mass acts of genocide), which probably considered the perceived facts of the situation: the dog was a stray set to face death anyway, it's so far malnourished that it will be miserable regardless, it's for the sake of art(you insert any ideology you wish in place of art) and who am I to ruin it, etc. It may, given some of these inferences, seem reasonable to intervene in one of two ways. Save the animal by cutting it loose and weening it back to health, clearly the most valiant and seemingly moral solution, or putting the poor animal out of its misery, not so valiant but far more reasonable than letting to poor thing suffer (let's keep in mind that an animal that severely undernourished may most likely face euthanasia at most shelters). Failure to act, either one way or another, shows either an inability to recognize one's own responsibility or to recognize it and play the ignorant fool by turning the cold cheek. One might recall Kantian ethics in the face of moral judgment, yet it seems as though we're forgetting who to include in the judgment. Though the artist may be called to answer for his actions, the gallery too must be considered. And if there were people present at the opening, they too hold as much responsibility as the artists and the gallery.

The artist should be held ultimately responsible if and only if he expressly forbade intervention. The piece alone begs it. The gallery should be held primarily responsible if and only if they expressly forbade intervention. Otherwise, the morality of this piece ought not be considered without a serious examination of the relationship of the gallery guests to the situation of the starving dog and their apparent lack of action. For me it seems as though the questions of morality in this piece finds its focus not in the act of starving the dog but in presenting the guests with a task begging action of a moral nature.

Viv O's picture


Although I find the idea repugnant, it reminds me of the actions (or rather inactions) of documentary film makers. They don't intervene when something unpleasant is happening, but rather fulfill their original aim of documenting it.
I don't condone this behaviour, but it is more complex than the headline makes it.