Animal rights activists have lashed out after Colorado’s Aspen Art Museum opened an installation featuring live tortoises with iPads strapped to their shells. “Since when is animal abuse art?” reads a petition on Change.org, titled “Take the iPads Off the Tortoises.” The petition has more than 1,800 backers so far.
The installation, “Moving Ghost Town,” is the work of New York-based artist Cai Guo-Qiang, and launched as part of the $45 million museum’s grand opening. Affixed on mounts with epoxy to the backs of three African Sulcata Tortoises, named Big Bertha, Gracie Pink Star, and Whale Wanderer, the iPads flash videos of Colorado’s ghost towns as their carriers roam the museum’s roof garden. Protesters claim the tortoises’ shells are sensitive to the weight of the devices. “These creatures were not designed to carry two-pound iPads,” Lisabeth Oden, creator of the petition, told the Aspen Daily News. (iPads, for what it’s worth, don’t weigh two pounds. They weigh any where from 1.05 to 1.5 pounds depending on the model.)
The exhibition is slated to run until October 5, so unless the activists prevail, the tortoises will be lugging their iPads around for two months. The museum responded to protests with a statement on its Facebook page saying the exhibition had been planned with a Turtle Conservancy and a veterinarian. “I have worked with the staff from the Aspen Art Museum since the initial planning phase of the Cai Guo-Qiang project. Without question, the welfare of the tortoises has taken the highest priority in every stage of this exhibition,” veterinarian Dr. Elizabeth Kremzier said. “In my professional opinion, the tortoises have adapted well to their new habitat, and the iPads have not interfered in any way with their natural behavior.”
Read the full petition here.