Controversial 'pigs as police' art installation in Escondido won't be removed
A new exhibition at the California Center for the Arts in Escondido (CCAE) showcases artwork that represents the diverse cultural landscape of Southern California, but one piece is receiving heavy criticism.
The installation portrays three pigs in police uniforms dancing in front of a photo of riot police with the acronym A.P.A.B sprayed over the top.
The piece is titled “Three Slick Pigs” and was created by a Los Angeles based artist who goes by OG Slick. In a statement, OG Slick said the acronym A.P.A.B is taken from the term ACAB (“All Cops Are Bastards”).
He describes the sculpture as “a satirical look at excessive police force and abuse of power by some individuals who hide behind the badge of the largest 'gang' in the U.S.”
His full statement can be read below.
Following the exhibit’s opening, criticism poured in over the installation. On Sunday, former Escondido Chief of Police, Ed Varso told the Escondido Times Advocate: “I am extremely disappointed to learn about the art piece depicting insulting images of honorable police officers. Despite my disappointment, police officers understand that there are times when people will sling insults, even when we are there to protect them. The members of the Escondido Police Department will continue to display professionalism and serve our community.”
The paper also quoted Escondido Mayor Paul McNamara as saying he was impressed by many things at the exhibit, but “was extremely disappointed and angered by one exhibit depicting the police as pigs. I found the exhibit incredibly disrespectful, and as importantly out of context with the celebration theme of the overall exhibit.”
McNamara also questioned whether the CCAE has “the right leadership … and should the council reimagine how this city asset is managed?”
The criticism led the CCAE board to call a special meeting on Wednesday to determine if any changes would be made to the show. Board members decided to leave things as they were.
Board chair Sara Matta told KPBS they considered the public comments, but the decision to leave the artwork in the exhibit aligns with the arts center’s support of the First Amendment.
“We take very seriously our role as an arts organization,” Matta said. “There's standards for how we should operate and one basic one is the First Amendment and freedom of speech. We live by that.”
In a written statement, exhibit curator Jim Daichendt described the overall exhibit as “a set of perspectives from artists who have not previously been invited inside its walls. Many of these artists use the visual arts to explore ideas around their own culture, upbringing, work, and daily experiences. Sometimes this involves abuse of power, marginalization, and firsthand experiences with racism. None of these ideas are easy to talk about but the art provides an opportunity for this community conversation to take place. Censorship of an image or idea that does not correspond with our own personal view is a dangerous practice. In this case, censoring Slick’s artwork demonstrates that one perspective in the community is more important and powerful than another.”
In his statement to the Times-Advocate on Sunday, Mayor McNamara said, “I suspect you have not heard the last of this from the council and city leadership.”
CCAE is operated by a non profit foundation but the center is city property and receives an annual subsidy from the city’s budget.
Matta said the controversy over the pig art installation couldn’t have come at a worse time because of budget concerns.
“We’ve had a lot of discussions with the city about the funding situation. We managed to get that I think in a fairly reasonable reduction just about a week ago and then this happened,” she said.
During a budget hearing this month, the city made a cut of $133,000 in the annual payment to the center, rather than a cut of up to $1.9 million which had been proposed during deliberations.
The cut comes at a time when the city grapples with a projected $8.5 million deficit in its fiscal year 2022-23 budget, which begins July 1.
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