Giullermo Varga "Habacuc" is a Costa Rican "political" artist who likes to shock. He has been acclaimed for his revolutionary outlook on the political situation in Costa Rica. In other words, this is one sick individual who would just as soon pee on a Bible, call it art, apply for an Endowment of the Arts grant, then scream and yell censorship when someone complained.
Last December he dumped tomatoes all over a gallery floor and subjected the President of El Salvador to walk through the mess. He was acclaimed for his vision. In August, when "Habacuc" chained a dog to a corner of a gallery and let it starve to death and called it "art," no one said a word.
Remember the stories about New York City when crime was rampant and people could be stabbed to death on a busy street and no one would say a word? Evidently, in Managua, Nicaragua, an abjectly "sick" artist can trap a starving dog, tie it to a gallery wall, call it art, and people will simply walk through the gallery, ooh and ahh over the artist, and let the dog starve to death.
There are several versions of the story floating around cyberspace. According to “Habacuc,” the dog was quite ill and dying. He paid five children to help him trap the dog.
A witness to the whole incident wrote, “I knew the dog died on the following day from lack of food. During the inauguration, I knew that the dog was persecuted in the evening between the houses of aluminum and cardboard in a district of Managua. 5 children who helped to capture the dog received 10 bonds of córdobas for their assistance. During the exhibition some people requested the freedom of the small dog, which the artist refused. The name of the dog was Natividad, and I let him die of hunger in the sight of everyone, as if the death of a poor dog was a shameless media show in which nobody does anything but to applaud or to watch disturbed. In the place that the dog was exposed remain a metal cable and a cord. The dog was extremely ill and did not want to eat, so in natural surroundings it would have died anyway; thus they are all poor dogs: sooner or later they die or are killed….”
There are truly disturbing photos from the gallery where the dog was starved to death.
Cultural, or Cruelty to Animals?
Was the artist trying to make a political statement without care for the animal? “Habacuc” captured the dog in the poor section of Managua and then chained it to the wall of the gallery. It has been confirmed with the Nación Marta Leonor González, publisher of the cultural supplement of the Press in Nicaragua that the dog died after a day in the expose. The artist also refused to say if he fed the animal or not.
Included in the “exhibition” was the phrase, written in dog food, “Eres que lees” (You are what you read). The Sandinista Hymn was played in the background, with photos of a censer where 175 stones of crack cocaine and an ounce of marijuana were burned. “Habacuc” said his work was a tribute to Natividad Canda, a Nicaraguan who died after being attacked by two rottweilers in a factory in Carthage. He then said, “I reserve (the right) to say if it is certain or not that the dog died. The important thing for me was the hypocrisy of people: an animal like this one becomes center of attention when I put it in a white place where people are going to see art, but not when it would have died in the street of hunger….”
“Habacus” said it was the same with Natividad Canda. People sympathized with him after he was “eaten by dogs.”
According to the Tico Times, the incident took place in early November, 2005. “..dead after being attacked by two Rottweiller (sic) guard dogs in the hours before dawn yesterday. The attack – which was partially caught on tape by a local TV news team – took place on private property. …The man, identified by police as 24-year old Nicaraguan immigrant Natividad Canda Mayrena, died as he was brought to the Max Peralta Hospital in Cartago, east of San José, due to blood loss, …Footage of the attack broadcast on Channel 7 TV News showed two large Rottweilers (sic) alternately biting and pulling the immobile body of the victim, as firefighters attempted to separate the animals from the victim by spraying them and the victim with a fire hose. Though a police vehicle is visible, no officers are seen attempting to intervene. Police officials said they could not fire upon the animals because they feared hitting the victim, though on multiple occasions the news footage shows the animals leaving the body and walking a few feet away….”
The Political Artist
“Habacus” is an award winning Costa Rican artist who specializes on the bazaar political. In the December 2006 show in Costa Rica, he received quite a bit of acclaim for his venture into commentary on the social and the political. He won honorable mention in an important show when he “spread a red carpet of tomatoes” in places where dignitaries and guest speakers were required to walk to get to the stage and podium to announce the prizes. According to the artist, the red carpet was intended as an “interpretation of the roles of power and authority.” He also showed a video entitled Policeman Intervening in Artwork and the Abuse of Power.
Giullermo Varga “Habacus” is in line to represent Costa Rica in the Central American Biennials in Honduras next year. A group of bloggers from Costa Rica and animal rights activists, along with animal lovers throughout the world, are now in the process of circulating a petition to prevent “Habacus” from being allowed to enter the event.
Naturally, there are cries of censorship.