Darren Bader’s exhibition takes up several rooms at MoMA PS1. The piece that I specifically want to focus on features  cats in a room with an invigilator, a couch, a few objects and a photograph on the wall. On the day I visited there were two cats, one permanently hiding under the couch, and the other sometimes coaxed out by the invigilator.  The cats are from the SaveKitty Foundation rescue centre and are up for adoption. Visitors are encouraged to adopt the animals which are replaced from the shelter on a one out, one in, basis. The artist raises our awareness of the plight of cats in shelters and the need to adopt before the animals are euthanised. The sheer numbers of animals killed every week in shelters are shocking. Animal activist Gary L. Francione  keeps a log on his facebook page of the number of cats and kittens, dogs and puppies that are put down. Like Darren Bader he also urges us to adopt an animal. Francione, who leads the Abolitionist Approach towards non human animals argues that animals are not our resources and that if animals have only one right,  it is the right not to be owned. I am in agreement with Gary and despite the good work done by Darren Bader in raising our awareness of the issue of animals in shelter, I believe it is wrong to use the cats in this way as an art resource. This is because he is using the pathetic plight of the (sometimes) frightened animals to produce art. I also find myself in disagreement that, ‘each cat is also an artwork’ (if you adopt, the art status can be removed if you like). This seems to suggest that it is possible to make the cats into something more than cats – transformed into art –  above and beyond  their status as cats as living sentient non-human animals. If cats can be transformed into art then so can racism or sexism. Any social injustice could be enjoyed and consumed as art.

In Artinfo 25 Questions for conceptual sculptor Darren Bader  he says, ‘What appears as activism is just a means to an end: sculpture’, which makes me think there is a dysconscious speciesism running through this exhibition. In the same interview he says,  ‘I am a big animal rights and environmental advocate (too often in private).’ This second statement I would associate with veganism and not someone who would use animals in an environment that was unnatural to them as he did by using live goats in Andrew Kreps last year.

© Matthew Septimus 2012 / Courtesy of MoMA PS1