Animals, art and death: Hermann Nitsch’s 3-Day-Play

There seems to be a bit of a storm brewing over Hermann Nitsch‘s 3-Day-Play in Leipzig next month. An online petition protesting at the planned killing of a cow and some pigs during the play has gathered over 6,000 signatures in just a few days. I can see this thing reaching the mainstream media any day now, so I’d like to use my little corner of the internet to inject some much-needed corrective thinking.

I have no idea whether any animals will be slaughtered as part of this play, although it wouldn’t surprise me. We went through all this in 1998, when Nitsch performed his 6-Day-Play in Prinzendorf (a re-run of which is planned for 2017). Animals were killed there, to predictable howls of outrage and demonstrations outside the castle as the action took place. What those people didn’t understand, and the Leipzig protesters are also failing to grasp, is that the animals killed during Nitsch’s actions are due for the chop anyway. If they hadn’t been killed there, they would have been killed in the slaughterhouse. Furthermore, their meat is cooked and eaten by participants in the action, just as surely as it would be if they had met their end in the abattoir. This idea of animals being killed “in the name of art” is, therefore, utterly spurious.

As for me, I’m still seething over the fact that I’m not going to be able to make it over to Leipzig for this, Nitsch’s first major action in eight years.