Ethics, Excess, Extinction

Art Works for Change

An exhibition exploring the reality of endangered species and humanity's responsibility to protect them

Will humanity embrace the instrinsic value of animals and our moral obligation to safeguard them?
In this exhibit by Art Works for Change, visionary artists consider the reality of animal life: cruelty toward animals as seen through factory farming; the breeding of animals for their hides and fur; hunting animals for their potential medicinal powers; and an alternative vision of the world where all animals are respected and protected from suffering and commercial exploitation. Through their works, we can imagine a new story about a world which values and connects all living things.
It is through ethical thinking that we are compelled to protect animals from cruelty, and to challenge the ways in which we habitually think about, and relate to, the animal kingdom.

Kiki Smith portrays interconnected plants, animals, and heavenly bodies in her jacquard tapestry "to celebrate and honor the wondrous and precarious nature of being here on earth.”

Karen Knorr evokes a sense of displacement and sadness, and warns of the foibles of power, in her striking portraits of animal characters who occupy lavish, ornamental habitats in which they do not belong.

Knorr calls each work in this series a memento mori — an object serving as a warning or reminder of death — for our species.

Karolina Sobecka's interactive video explores self-awareness, empathy for animals, and nonverbal communication by combining a mirror with a projected animal face that both mimics the viewer and acts independently.

In her body of work entitled "Why Not Eat Your Pet?", Gale Hart dares us to compare our pets to all the other animals we eat, experiment on, wear, and use for entertainment.

Hart draws attention to the pain and suffering of animals not with shock or gore, but with works of art that drive a message so poignant that one can’t help but think — and be moved — to care.

We live in a consumer society in which the buying and selling of goods and services is an important social and economic activity. The prevailing form of consumerism, however, produces significant waste and puts stress on species that are exploited for fashion or entertainment. How much consideration goes into what we buy, eat and wear, including the ethical treatment of species, endangered and otherwise? Can we create a new norm in which luxury and sustainability coexist?

Andrea Hasler's wax handbag reminds us that the allure of consumer goods can sometimes mask repugnant aspects of their manufacturing, such as a lack of sustainable, cruelty-free practices.

By designing a hunting jacket that folds into the form of the animal being hunted, Rohan Chhabra highlights our complicity in the act of slaying a living creature and transforming it into an object, decorative accessory, or trophy.

In this video by Antonio Briceño and Sara Bernal, the collecting habits of bowerbirds are juxtaposed with those of flea market shoppers, inviting us to reflect on our impulse to collect objects as a way of defining ourselves and attracting others.

On Midway Atoll, a remote cluster of islands more than 2,000 miles from the nearest continent, the detritus of mass consumption surfaces in an astonishing place: inside the stomachs of thousands of dead baby albatrosses, such as this one photographed by Chris Jordan.

Spoofing the movie, The Matrix, the Meatrix video series was created to educate viewers about factory farming and offer solutions to support sustainable food and agriculture.

There have been five mass extinctions throughout history during which roughly 75% of the earth’s species vanished. Today, illegal hunting, overfishing, degradation of habitat, natural disasters, disease, and climate change have contributed to high rates of species extinction. Poaching has become a serious threat to the survival of many species, including elephants and rhinos. Are we doomed, as some scientists believe, to a sixth mass extinction? Or can we learn how to protect our fellow creatures, and, in the process, help save ourselves?

In this installation, Esther Traugot wrapped the bodies of honeybees in crocheted bandages, drawing our attention to the decimation of honeybee populations.

In the work, Traugot expresses her desire to see a world in which humans cohabitate symbiotically with plants and animals, and urges us to nurture and protect creatures such as bees, which are essential to our survival.

In his powerful photographs, Nick Brandt documents the impact of elephant poaching, an illegal activity that claims the life of an African elephant every 15 minutes and threatens to drive the species to extinction within two decades.

Billie Lynn Grace uses the inflatable form and white color of these elephants to evoke a sense of invisibility and a visual manifestation of “the elephant in the room”: The loss of elephants to poaching is an issue too big to go unrecognized or ignored.

This dark tale about extinction by Ryder Cooley features songs about extinct creatures such as the Tasmanian Tiger, Giant Deer, and Xerces blue butterfly, sung by a lost musician who summons the animals back to life for her Graveyard Cabaret.

In this body of work by Kahn & Selesnick, a fictitious cabaret troupe travels the countryside staging absurd performances in abandoned landscapes beyond the town's edge.

The playful but dire message presented by the troupe is of impending ecological disaster, caused by rising waters and a warming planet, the immediate consequences of which include the mass extinction of bats and other animals.

Artists have long expanded the boundaries of art to focus on significant social and environmental issues. In this exhibition, artists help us understand that we have the power to spare animals from suffering and exploitation by making better choices about the food we eat, the things we buy, and the activities we support. Learn more, and take action, by visiting the Ethics, Excess, Extinction exhibition on our website.

Credits: Story

This exhibit is a selection of works from Ethics, Excess, Extinction, a traveling museum exhibition created by Art Works for Change. For more information, including inquiries into hosting the exhibition, please contact us at or visit us at

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The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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