In 1977, artist Tom Otterness, now based in Gowanus and best known for his work at the 14th Street and Eighth Avenue station, made a movie called “Shot Dog Film” in which he shot a shelter dog he’d adopted. A commenter who saw it at the time described the experience at Fucked in Park Slope:
The video was not just him shooting a dog. It was him getting the dog, caring for the dog, being with the dog over a period of time, it was not a single day film, he was with the dog for quite a while.
I would never have willingly agreed to watch such a film, but none of us actually knew how it would end. When he shot the dog, the audience was taken aback (we hoped it was faked). We had been duped, victimized, and he got all the publicity that he had hoped for…
Otterness, whose more recent work trades on weird animal cuteness, has recently been commissioned by an anonymous patron to create bronze lion sculptures for the New York Public Library’s Battery Park branch; he is to receive a quarter of a million dollars for the work. The artist isn’t proud of what he did over three decades ago. Fucked in Park Slope quotes his apology:
Thirty years ago when I was 25 years old, I made a film in which I shot a dog. It was an indefensible act that I am deeply sorry for. Many of us have experienced profound emotional turmoil and despair. Few have made the mistake I made. I hope people can find it in their hearts to forgive me.
But many don’t have such forgiveness in their hearts. “His finished product was essentially a snuff film and he committed a heinous and vicious crime,” reads an on-line petition. “We recognize [his apology] as little more than lip service. His anti-social behavior makes him the worst possible candidate imaginable to create sculptures for a building that supposedly functions for the public good.”
Detractors say he should, at the very least, dedicate his commission to animal shelters around the city—to put his money where his mouth is, as it were.