In just two weeks, NYC's Guggenheim Museum is set to open an ambitious three-month exhibit on experimental works from Chinese artists, many of which the New York Times deems "deliberately shocking." None more so, though, than a piece by a pair known as "the bad couple of China's art": Peng Yu and her husband, Sun Yuan, whose "Dogs That Cannot Touch Each Other" video is facing calls to be removed before the exhibit opens Oct. 6. The seven-minute reel depicts four pairs of face-to-face pit bulls charging each other on nonmotorized treadmills but kept from making contact. The Times notes the original version of the piece, which the duo debuted in Beijing in 2003, took place live; the Guggenheim says it's using video only. Either way, art and animal lovers aren't happy with the installation, with more than 20,000 already signing a petition to "promote cruelty-free exhibitions" at the museum.
Per the petition, by setting the dogs up to fight but then not letting them, it creates a "stressful and frustrating experience." It adds that video taken during the 2003 live viewing showed the animals' "frantic, foaming faces." Peng dismissed abuse allegations in a 2016 interview, noting the filmed dogs were just being "naturally pugnacious." She even compared them to Olympic athletes. "Human nature and animal nature are the same," she said "[The Olympics] is the conversion of actual fighting into regulated competition." In a statement, the museum concedes "the work may be upsetting," but also calls it "an intentionally challenging and provocative artwork that seeks to examine and critique systems of power and control." (Blasting odors at visitors may have been better.)