One of ButterflyCircle's members paid a visit to the Singapore Art Museum recently, and saw amongst the exhibits displayed, in the name of "art" was this supposedly delectable dining installation art, featuring dead butterflies titled Bon Appetit 2008.
Most, if not all of our butterfly- and nature-loving community in Singapore would be outraged at this totally insensitive display, killing so many butterflies just so that some artist can make a statement? It is totally in bad taste, even as Singapore is celebrating the International Year of Biodiversity 2010 and priding ourselves in biodiversity conservation. Is this the message that we are sending out to the rest of the world - the hypocrisy and the duplicity that we are saying one thing, and then condoning exactly the opposite?
Does the artist, and even those people who are responsible for featuring this "work of art" realise that no living thing as gentle as butterflies deserves to die, just so that some people can partake of this demented orgy of what is considered art? Has Singapore's society degenerated into such abject decadence that we need to kill these beautiful creatures so that some people can appreciate this repulsive display that is even considered worthy of being featured at the Singapore Art Museum?
Even if the specimens are not real or farm-bred butterflies, the message sent to people viewing the exhibition is that "it is ok to kill beautiful creatures for human enjoyment". Butterflies are expendable, and that their lives can be forfeit for human 'enjoyment' - such as what is being displayed.
The metaphorical association with a gastronomic experience further emphasises that these are insects whose lives are not worth considering, and that they die for our pleasure. Whatever the artist explained about "the unequal power relations in society, and the relationship between the powerful and the powerless" is exactly what he is guilty of - that he has killed these innocent and harmless beauties in the name of art, by exacting his "power" over these poor defenseless creatures.
A totally sick and repulsive act of cruelty and senseless mass murder that reflects the demented and decadent mind of Man. I hope that the people in "power" at the Singapore Art Museum can think with some conscience, take stock of the message that this exhibit portrays and withdraw it immediately from public consumption.
Bon Appetit 2008
Installation with table, cloth, chairs, tableware, needles and butterflies. In this installation, a table is laid for a meal, the cutlery and chinaware meticulously arranged according to the table etiquette of the elite, anticipating the arrival of diners possessing social status and privilege. Startlingly, the bowls and plates are filled not with food but with butterflies, neatly fastened to the chinaware. Much of Harsono’s recent work has employed the butterfly as a symbol of a victim — beautiful and vulnerable, and inevitably, destined for destruction or attack. The butterflies in Bon Appetit are forcibly pinned down, about to be consumed. While the work appears charming on the surface, it nonetheless hints at unequal power relations in society, and the relationship between the powerful and the powerless. The suggestion of a domestic or interior setting also marks a shift from Harsono’s earlier works, where the streets and public areas were the theatres of violence, and sites of protest and resistance. Now, as Bon Appetit suggests, violence and danger have subtly infiltrated the home, the most personal and private of spaces.
Text by Khew SK ; Photos by a BC member