Berlin Art Students Threaten to Decapitate an Adorable Sheep If You Don't Vote to Save It

Berlin Art Students Threaten to Decapitate an Adorable Sheep If You Don't Vote to Save It
Iman Rezai and Rouven Materne with their scultpure "Die Guillotine"
(Courtesy the Artists)

What are they teaching the kids in art school these days? Two Berlin University of the Arts students are crowd-sourcing the final outcome of a grisly sculpture turned performance piece called “Die Guillotine,” which involves the potential sacrifice of a live sheep. For the work, Iman Rezai and Rouven Materne have created a guillotine, daubed it in neon colors that might be found in a children’s TV show, and filmed a YouTube video in which they threatened to use the decapitation machine on the helpless animal — unless, that is, the public chooses to save the animal in their online vote.

"The guillotine is the most compact reflection of our society," Materne says in the German-only video, which documents the creation of the 12-foot-high execution device, the procuring of the 90-pound blade, and a demonstration of its potential with the innocent sheep waiting close by. The duo’s minimalist Web site hosts a looped video of the artists testing and guillotine and asks a simple question: “Should this sheep be killed?” The online poll has 140,000 respondents answering yes and 255,000 no. Voters have the next 22 days to decide if the blade falls.

The macabre and deliberately provocative work is a “criticism of current morality,” according to Materne — but it looks more like an art-school prank pushed far past the threshold of good taste. In response, the Berlin University of the Arts has distanced themselves from the stunt. A university spokeswoman said the two artists had assured the school that their guillotine project was intended as an “artistic provocation” and that they had no plans to kill the animal, according to the Toronto Sun.

Recent history has seen no shortage of artworks that have gotten a rise out of the public through real or imagined acts of animal cruelty (in fact, we recently rounded up some of the finest examples), from the 2007 furor over online photos of the artist Habacuc's performance that supposedly had him starving a dog from the street in a Nicaraguan gallery, to the recent uproar caused by Kansas City artist Amber Hansen when she threatened to display and then slaughter five chickens for a community potluck. At least, however, Rezai and Materne offered their lamb more due process then artist Marco Evaristti offered the goldfish he put in blenders back in 2003, inviting the public to liquify them at will. 

To see the Iman Rezai and Rouven Materne's clip promoting “Die Guillotine,” click on the video below: