iPad-wearing tortoises removed from Aspen art museum and moved to conservatory

Big Bertha, Gracie Pink Star and Whale Wanderer will trade their iPads and gawkers for a conservatory and scientists.
By Matt Bradwell  |  Aug. 27, 2014 at 11:27 AM
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ASPEN, Colo., Aug. 27 (UPI) -- Citing cool and damp weather, three African sulcata tortoises, each wearing a pair of iPads on their shell, have been removed from the Aspen-area art exhibit where they were on display.

The Aspen Art Museum has come under fire in recent weeks for artist Cai Guo-Qiang's controversial "Moving Ghost Town," a three dimensional somewhat-performance think piece that features three domestically raised tortoises wandering around a ranch-like enclosure that offers viewers "a direct exchange between viewers and the larger universe around them cultivating a site-specific approach to culture and history"

With iPads mounted to their backs, the tortoises feature video footage of three local ghost towns, which were filmed by the creatures themselves. Forgotten stories of the once prosperous ghost towns are retold from the tortoises' perspective.

Unfortunately for the museum, Guo-Qiang and visiting appreciators, cool weather and wet conditions have forced the early placement of Big Bertha, Gracie Pink Star and Whale Wanderer into a conservation site selected with the help of the Turtle Conservancy.

"In light of the current unseasonably cold and wet weather conditions forecasted for Aspen, [resident veterinarian Dr. Elizabeth Kremzier] is recommending that the tortoises are relocated as of [Monday]," the Aspen Art Museum said in a statement.

We stand by the artist to ensure that vision is honored, and we are glad that this exhibition has generated such meaningful dialogue and educational awareness. We respectfully acknowledge the perspectives of those who believe that live animals should simply never be used in artworks, despite the long history of artist projects that have included them -- from Robert Rauschenberg and Lucinda Childs's Spring Training (1965), a performance involving thirty desert turtles with flashlights taped to their backs; to Joseph Beuys's I Like America and America Likes Me (1974), in which the artist caged himself with a live coyote, and Darren Bader's presentation of live cats as sculptures in his recent Darren Bader: Images at MoMA PS1 (2012), to name but a few.

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