Since 2004, Delvoye, one of the world’s most prominent contemporary artists, has established his presence in China, turning Beijing’s metropolis into one of his centers for notorious art creation. This eccentric Belgian creator of Art Farm is no stranger to the term ‘crazy,’ or even to “crazy’ art.
Art Farm is one of his newest creations.
When Delvoye visited China in 2004, he claims, ‘I knew I wanted to set something up, although I wasn’t sure what it would be.’ One week after familiarizing himself with China, he realized it was the perfect location to initiate his Art Farm. ‘I wanted the freshness of an Asian society,’ he says. Within a matter of months, 200 meters of farm property became the home of 24 pigs that are still being tattooed today.
I then wonder why one would want to tattoo pigs. Delvoye’s preoccupation with pigs comes from another communist country, Cuba. While in Cuba, he found out that families were allowed to have one pig in every household. He then became very fascinated with the idea of regarding the live pig as a piggy bank. Empirically, he began to see that a big part of the art piece was about making a yield, monetarily or symbolically. The idea that pigs grow so quickly gave him the idea to make paintings that literally grow, so they grow in value.
On an ethical level, many observers of the tattooed pigs will immediately question the pigs’ suffering, which is indeed an important issue. There definitely is no denying that if the pigs were absolutely free, they would likely not voluntarily choose to be tattooed.Yet, the pigs on Art Farm are a reminder of thousands of pigs who have a different fate. By converting each of these pigs into an art piece, Delvoye has protected them by raising their value. He reminds critics that the average life span of a breeding farm pig is less than six months, whereas the pigs on Art Farm have already lived for over 9 months.
Delvoye’s Art Farm satirically mirrors the society we live in. Like thousands of others seeking to cash in on China’s breakneck economic development, Delvoye is an enterprise that has come to China and invested in his product, art creation. As a company, he has a clear idea of what the net gain should be, yet, as an artist, he has taken a mass product, the pig, and converted it into a unique art commodity. Within this dynamic microcosm, it is possible to see aspects of Chinese society and its current status in a burgeoning economy. Poverty and lack of education are inevitable backlashes of this system, and are present on the Art Farm. This leaves me wondering about one thing: Shouldn’t art help magnify the world we live in?