Chinese artist under fire for strapping iPads to tortoises' shells

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 07 August, 2014, 11:10am
UPDATED : Thursday, 07 August, 2014, 4:26pm

A Colorado art museum is standing by an upcoming exhibit by a Chinese-born artist featuring three tortoises with iPads mounted on their backs.

The Aspen Art Museum released a statement on Wednesday supporting the exhibit by Cai Guo-Qiang called “Moving Ghost Town” despite calls from animal-rights activists to call off the exhibit as animal abuse.

The exhibit opens on Saturday as part of the public grand opening of the town’s new US$45 million museum.

The African Sulcata tortoises will roam around grass on the museum’s roof deck garden. Each will have two iPads showing video of ghost towns.

The museum said the tortoises were rescued from a breeder and that a veterinarian is overseeing their care, and that their diet includes leafy vegetables. The iPads are on mounts attached with an epoxy used to attach tracking devices to wild animals, the museum said.

Watch: Controverial art exhibit features tortoises with iPads mounted on their backs 

“It is not the museum’s practice to censor artists,” spokeswoman Sara Fitzmaurice said.

“The three are being closely monitored, cared for, checked by a local veterinarian at regular intervals, and are being exhibited in consultation with the Turtle Conservancy,” Fitzmaurice said. She said the tortoises would get new homes after the exhibit closes on October 5.

The museum also sent a statement from an Aspen veterinarian.

“The iPads have not interfered in any way with their natural behaviour,” Dr Elizabeth Kremzier said.

But the creator of a petition to stop the exhibit disagreed.

“These creatures were not designed to carry two-pound iPads,” Lisabeth Oden told the Aspen Daily News.