Things that need to be seen/said

Posted on 20.07.2012

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So often, people think of the word ‘art’ and think of a painting of a beautiful sunset or other Kincaid-style ‘masterpiece’. While these are great for adorning the walls of a beach house, what kind of emotion do they really arouse in us?

I’ll agree that art can be beautiful, and that images that are merely ‘pretty’ have their place. But I prefer the gritty underside of things more often than not, and I want to share a bit of work that’s going on in Taiwan.

I volunteered at my local shelter for over 5 years when I lived in Baltimore. I would have done so here as well, if my help had been needed. It’s not. The workers here are paid, and they have no room for volunteers. To top it all off, here in the smaller city where I live, animals aren’t abused or abandoned at the rate that I saw in the US. It seems most people here are actually responsible about taking on pets, and for that I’m eternally grateful.

a photo from his series

However, that’s not the case everywhere. The series I want to share with you today comes from Taiwan, from an artist named Tou Chih-kang. View the article about his work HERE.

From the news article (linked above):

“Tou has been recording the last moments of canines at the Taoyuan Animal Shelter for two years. He has captured the images of some 400 dogs, most of which were pets abandoned by their owners. To him the work is distressing, but he’s trying to spread a message of responsibility.

“I believe something should not be told but should be felt,” says Tou, a thick-bodied 37-year-old with an air of quiet confidence. “And I hope these images will arouse the viewers to contemplate and feel for these unfortunate lives, and understand the inhumanity we the society are putting them through.”

It took me two weeks to make it through these photos.

I was lucky, I worked for a shelter where animals weren’t killed unless they were ill or unable to be rehabilitated. Most shelters aren’t so lucky to have that choice, or the space to NOT kill animals as they come in.

This is an absolutely heartbreaking series; which means that Tou’s idea has come through and the work was correctly executed/created. Just read the captions. Look at the innocent animals. This isn’t just going on in Taiwan, this is going on at most of the shelters in major metropolitan areas near you. Lack of space, funding, and responsibility on the part of ‘owners’ and breeders all lead to this. And all we can really do is our part.

I’d say ‘enjoy’, but I don’t expect anyone will. Regardless, I commend Tou on doing the hard work and taking the hard photos in order to get the message out. Someone needs to do it, and I appreciate that he is. This isn’t just art. This is a message. It’s social commentary without spoken words. And it’s powerful.

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Posted in: art