Art Institute stands behind violent exhibit

A San Francisco Art Institute exhibit that shows video clips of animals being killed by hammer blows has provoked controversy.

The art school, which dates back to 1871, opened the “Don’t Trust Me” exhibit on Wednesday at the Walter and McBean Galleries on Chestnut Street. The exhibit, by Paris-based artist Adel Abdessemed, consists of video screens that show six animals — a sheep, a horse, an ox, a pig, a goat and a doe — being struck and killed by a hammer.

According to the university’s description, “Each killing occurs so quickly that it’s difficult to determine definitively what has happened.”

San Francisco resident and self-proclaimed animal lover Bob Gain said he was “disgusted and appalled” when he heard about the exhibit and cannot believe that “something like that is tolerated” in San Francisco.

“I don’t think that the killing of other creatures and doing it in such a way constitutes art,” Gain said. “I think it crosses a line.”

The San Francisco Art Institute issued a statement when asked to respond to criticism of the exhibit.

“SFAI would like to make it very clear that the Adel Abdessemed exhibition … is an instance of a long-standing and serious commitment, on SFAI’s part, to reflection on and free and open discussion of contemporary art,” the statement said.

The images are “of events that tookplace — and regularly take place — in the real world, on a regular basis.”

The university said that video “can imbue images with a particularly powerful, ‘real time’ quality — a quality that some people may find disturbing.”

The exhibit is scheduled to remain on display until May 31.

jsabatini@examiner.com

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