On Campus

Instructor dismissed after student kills chicken

Alberta art college divided by controversial performance art


Art critic Lucy Lippard said that performance art was “the most… immediate art form… for it means getting down to the bare of aesthetic communication–art/self confronting audience/society.”

Think Chris Burden, who in 1971 convinced a friend to shoot him in the arm from a distance of 15 feet. “It was an inquiry into what it feels like to be shot,” he said after the performance piece. “Two or three thousand people get shot every night on TV, and it has always been something to be avoided. So I took the flip side and asked, ‘What if you face this head on?'”

That was more than 40 years ago.

Three weeks ago in the Alberta College of Art and Design’s cafeteria–reminiscent of a scene out of an Alice Cooper concert–student Miguel Suarez slit a live chicken’s throat, stuffed it into a pot and called it art, later telling a local CTV affiliate that he hoped the gruesome performance would help his classmates think about where their food comes from.

“I just wanted to put it out there, that’s the process that it takes,” he said in the video.

ACAD head of sculpture instructor Gord Ferguson, who has worked at the school for more than three decades, was dismissed on Monday.

When questioned on Wednesday, a spokesperson at ACAD wouldn’t confirm that Ferguson’s departure was tied to the slaughtering of the chicken, saying it was “a personnel issue,” reports the Calgary Herald. Meanwhile, Ferguson said on Thursday that he had retained legal counsel and had been advised against speaking to media, despite him having “lots to say.”

But today, the art instructor told the the paper that his firing was “absolutely” related to Suarez’s performance in the cafeteria. And his students–including Suarez–are none too pleased about it.

“I’ve been working with the other students and we have sent a letter and they’re signing petitions,” he told the Herald. “But I don’t want to personally do anything that’s going to affect his situation anymore.”

ACAD’s Facebook page is filled with comments about the incident. Some applaud the school for standing up against animal cruelty. However, most were outraged over Ferguson’s dismissal. Bmj Doty wrote: “I’m thankful to Gord Ferguson for allowing me the freedom to make mistakes and work of questionable merit while I was a student of his in his Sculpture classes. A more deserving institution will hire him, and the students of that institution will reap the benefit of ACAD’s short sighted ignorance.”

Suarez, who wasn’t arrested by Calgary police after the incident, won’t elaborate on whether or not Ferguson supported his project, which he told Ferguson about a month before the actual performance.

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