On the exhibition’s opening night, I sent this press release to the London news media:
As part of the “Animal” exhibition at the Young Unknowns Gallery, visitors will be able to see a pair of ear-rings made from dead human foetuses. Artist Rick Gibson has freeze-dried two human foetuses and glued hooks into their heads to create some light-weight jewelry.
Gibson says, “My work has been criticized by a few people as being immoral. However, I believe that unborn human foetuses dangling from a person’s ears are as moral as a four year old lion’s head mounted on a plaque or a pig’s skin made into a football.”
After reading the press release, a journalist phoned the police and asked, “Is this sculpture legal?” But the police didn’t know. In fact nobody knew, not even a professor who was interviewed by the South London Press newspaper:
Professor Michael Freeman, of University College law department, said, he was “horrified” by such a use of foetuses but added, “The law is very unclear and in all probability Gibson has not committed any criminal offence. It’s the sort of area where we need to be thinking about new laws to stop this kind of thing happening.”
Nevertheless, as soon as the gallery opened in the morning, the police seized the sculpture.
Later that day, a Canadian newspaper reported:
Scotland Yard has confiscated a Canadian artist’s eerie sculpture that features two human fetuses for earrings.
The fetus earrings dangle from the lobes of a brown-wigged store mannequin with bright red lipstick daubed on its mouth.
Police have confirmed the fetuses are real. They are freeze-dried, about three inches long and are believed to have come from a two-month pregnancy.
Police have questioned the artist about the source of the fetuses but had not charged him. A police spokesman said the department was still trying to determine if any laws had been broken and the police were even examining obscure statutes regarding good taste.
The sculpture, called “Human Earrings,” is by Rick Gibson. Gibson said the fetuses were given to him by a pathologist who admired his earlier work, which included a freeze-dried human uterus on a wall plaque and a freeze-dried pregnant cat on a dinner plate with a cat fetus stuck on a fork entitled Cat à la Carte.
Gibson, who has been living in London, England, said he used to sculpt with freeze-dried animal flesh, but “has evolved over time into using human tissue.”
“I have never had any trouble with the police in Canada,” he added. “I’m just trying to take the mystique out of human death.”
Gallery co-manager Judith Bowden described the earrings as “serious artwork”. “It’s not a horror show,” Bowden said. “Art doesn’t have to be beautiful.”
However, an editorial in the South London Press newspaper wondered:
How does Gibson justify such a ghoulish undertaking as art? He says, “I believe that unborn human foetuses dangling from someones’s ears are more valid than a four-year-old lion’s head mounted on a wall plaque.”
Such twisted logic smacks of the animal liberation movement, though that obsession is unlikely to preoccupy Gibson as he also uses cat wombs for “art.” Even if this is simply a display of warped one-upmanship in the unfathomable world of publicity stunts and underground art, it goes too far.