"Take the iPads Off the Tortoises:" Petition Stokes Controversy Over Museum Exhibit

Categories: Art, News

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Photo by Billy Farrell/BFAnyc.com
A cropped version of an exhibit-promoting photo made available by the Aspen Art Museum.
"Moving Ghost Town Tortoises," a new exhibit at the Aspen Art Museum, hasn't even launched yet. It's slated to debut on Saturday amid the unveiling of a new building at the facility. But it's making national and international headlines thanks to a petition claiming animal abuse as a result of the presentation's most unique aspect: iPads strapped to the backs of three African tortoises. Photos, details and more below.

See also: Photos: More of Denver's Best Street Art as Chosen by a Graffiti-Scene Veteran

The Change.org petition, posted by Lisbeth Olsen, features the title "Take the iPads Off the Tortoises." Here's a screen capture of the main image....

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...and here's the accompanying text:
Dear Aspen Art Museum --

We, the undersigned, request you end this animal abuse. The Tortoises that you have in your new display in the new Aspen Art Museum have had iPads attached to their shells and must endure the weight of 2 iPads on their back as they walk around in the sun showing slides of old Aspen in the name of art. Since when is animal abuse art? We must all rise and stop this now!! There is no excuse for this!

Please stop this unnecessary exploitation of animals now and do the right thing by getting these iPad of the Tortoises' backs and make sure they are given to a sanctuary where they will never be abused like this again and put pressure on the artist to vow he will never do anything like this to any other animal ever again!

The carapace (The carapace is the dorsal (back) convex part of the shell structure of a turtle, consisting primarily of the animal's ribcage, dermal armor and scutes) is sensitive to the slightest impact. If the carapace or plastron be very gently tapped, the nearest leg is alone withdrawn, a heavier tap causing a withdrawal of its whole body. We have here, therefore, a structure which is a true sensitive surface, and like the soft skin of a frog or of a man, it is brought into relation- ship with the central nervous system. Like the soft skin of other animals it may be mapped out into areas, from which the nerve-fibres passing to the spinal cord are all especially connected with outgoing motor nerves, so that the definite reflex movements of limbs as already described may come about.

The petition had a goal of 1,000 signatures. At this writing, it's collected more than 1,700, boosted no doubt by enormous media interest in the dust-up. A Denver Post piece quickly led to a slew of other press reports from outlets as varied as Time and The Australian.

In response, the museum offered the following statement in defense of the exhibit, as penned by spokesperson Sara Fitzmaurice:

The Aspen Art Museum is a contemporary art museum that provides a platform for artists to present their artistic vision with a freedom of expression. That free expression can take many forms, and it is not the Museum's practice to censor artists. Cai Guo-Qiang's installation features three African Sulcata Tortoises which were rescued from a breeder where they were living in an over-crowded enclosure and being over bred. The three are being closely monitored, cared for, checked by a local veterinarian at regular intervals, and are being exhibited in consultation with the Turtle Conservancy. Following the end of the exhibition on October 5, the tortoises will find new homes in conservation and educational facilities selected in collaboration with the Turtle Conservancy.
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The Aspen Art Museum as seen in a profile pic on the organization's Facebook page.
A much more detailed explanation (it's about 900 words in length) is offered on the museum's Facebook page. But the missive failed to connect with a number of commenters. Here are several examples:
The Aspen Art Museum and this so-called-artist should be ashamed of themselves and should be boycotted!!! Disgusting abuse of a noble being!

There are better ways to educate and raise awareness for the tortoises...I fully doubt this was the original intent anyways. It's absurd and demeaning to the animal.

Guiltless explanation, but I say, "So what?" It sends a visual message which is destructive towards tortoises. It's a little like sawing a person in half: it's a trick, sure, but post enough videos, someone will actually it.

SHUT IT DOWN ! YOUR EXCUSES ARE SHODDY AND ANIMALS ARE NOT YOURS TO DECORATE THEIR SENSITIVE SHELLS WITH A HARNESS TO WEAR AN IPAD FOR ENTERTAINMENT! Everyone tweet your displeasure to @tim_cook CEO of Apple that you do not want his products used in this #animalabuse manner!

Oh, please!

Continue to see the complete Aspen Art Museum post about "Moving Ghost Town Tortoises."


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17 comments
Che Weller
Che Weller

They're not screws holdig the I pads on. Its epoxy

Shelly Turner
Shelly Turner

So many other ways to get messages and points across, no need to do something like this.

Peter Handler
Peter Handler

I'd like to strap something to these " artist". I say serial killers in training.

Leon Wilcox
Leon Wilcox

Give em to me they'll be safe I'll eat them

Tamara Munroe
Tamara Munroe

There's bolts in them??? They couldn't have even tried a less invasive way??

Jay Cismaru
Jay Cismaru

I was at Teds concert there were no racist remarks you are uninformed and a spreader of the untruth

Jason Suess
Jason Suess

Are these people stupid? I'm not even an animal activist but didn't someone think this was a bad idea?!?!?

Buggy Salazar
Buggy Salazar

Pretty messed up to drill screws into an animal

Marshall Chippewa
Marshall Chippewa

Too big of a deal all I kno that when Ted Nugent was in town nobody said anything to him for his racist comments they all Prolly got his autograph let him say something derogatory toward the black community n see how much outcry the people have

RobertChase
RobertChase topcommenter

Our nation faces problems which have already lowered our standard of living and threaten our future, and we systematically confine (and torture) more people than any other on the face of the planet.  In the face of the imperative to better manage human affairs, the co-opting of our supposedly representative forms by corporations, and political apathy, some are up in arms about the fate of three tortoises, temporarily consigned the task of wandering the Aspen Art Museum with monitors on their backs.  Indulging in the conceit that there is some significance to this ginned-up controversy, there is no reason to suppose the tortoises are being abused.  Critics seem to assume (or declare) that humans have no right to make use of animals for any purpose, a point of view firmly rejected by the vast majority of people.  The absurd misdirection and political incompetence of the so-called "animal rights movement" is once again on display; instead of working to reduce the amount of meat Americans eat -- a political end considerably more feasible than ending all exploitation of animals -- animal rights hysterics keep pushing the notion that "meat is murder"; one would think they might learn something from the failure of the right-to-life movement to get Americans to think of abortion as murder, but all evidence suggests the opposite.

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