Opportunity lost by Esplanade to engage and arrange dialogue between opposers and supporters

by Alfian Sa’at

Some people have reported a previous post I made, which featured Liu Ding’s sculpture called ‘A man f*cking a chicken’ (2007, marble, taxidermy—you can google it), which literally shows a marble man f*cking a taxidermied chicken. That post has been taken down by Facebook for violating community standards.

But I will reproduce what was written in that post—because I really think the sheer stupidity of the pearl-clutching, genitals-in-Tupperware f*ckwits in the ‘Singaporeans Defending Marriage & Family’ group needs to be called out, again and again.

“On the left (a man with pink skin sitting on a giant chicken’s neck) is a sketch by artist Vincent Leow, exhibited at the Esplanade. A virulently homophobic Facebook group, “Singaporeans Defending Marriage and Family” posted a photo of it yesterday morning, with the text:

‘ESPLANADE promoting BESTIALITY! Naked man having SEX with ANIMAL picture outside Esplanade’s library!

This is an area where many kids walk past to to PIP’s PLAYbox, a kids’ art and play Centre and it’s the SCHOOL HOLIDAYS!

Is Esplanade shamefully promoting Pink Dot’s “Freedom to Love”?’

Now, before we even get to the more advanced question of ‘is this art?’ the very first question I have is ‘is this what you see?’ A chicken is drawn out of scale—a giant chicken—and a man (or even woman) looks like he or she is riding it. Or maybe strangling it. One sees the neck and back of the chicken; the cloaca, that opening that leads to the chicken’s reproductive system, is out of frame. What kind of cock-eyed interpretation of the sketch is this? And what perversity is it to then impose this view of the work on everyone else?

Personally, the most disturbing thing about the image for me is the limb jutting out of the left side, which should technically be a leg but looks more like an arm. Who does that arm belong to? The man? The chicken? What if they are actually the same chimeric animal?

Instead of trying to educate those making the complaints, Esplanade has caved in to them and removed the sketch. An opportunity lost to actually try to engage the public and to arrange for dialogue between those who oppose the work and those who support it. So let me say this here: no matter how many public outreach programmes you conduct, Esplanade, it is all useless because you have no robust systems to deal with all these moral panics whipped up by demagogues exploiting the hysterical echo chambers of social media.

On the right is an actual work of art, by Beijing-based artist Liu Ding. Its actual title is ‘A man f*cking a chicken’ (2007, Marble, taxidermy). The unofficial title I have for it is ‘Singaporeans Defending Marriage & Family f*cking the Esplanade’.”

There were some hilarious comments in the previous post, but the one I liked best went something like: ‘The man is nowhere near the cock’s genitals. In fact, it looks like he’s sitting on it to prevent it from moving. I wonder how the people who complained actually have sex…do they do it far away from the genitals too? No wonder they’re always grumpy.’

This was first published as a Facebook post by Alfian Sa’at and reproduced with permission