Rick Gibson

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Rick Gibson
Born1951 (age 67–68)
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Known forHolography, Sculpture, Performance Art, Anaglyphs, Lenticulars
Notable work
Foetus Ear-rings, Cannibalism, Sniffy the Rat

Rick Gibson (born 1951) is a Canadian sculptor and artist. He was born in Montreal and he studied Psychology at the University of Victoria. Between 1973 and 1974 he drew weekly comics for the student newspaper.[1] After completing his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1974 he moved to Vancouver. He lived in London, England from 1983 to 1989. He received a Master of Science degree in Interactive Art and Technology [2] from Simon Fraser University, Surrey in 2004.

3D holograms[edit]

In 1976, he became the holography assistant for the American new media artist Al Razutis.[3] In 1978 he received Canadian government funding to build his own holography studio and study holographic special effects. He exhibited the results of this work in Vancouver at the Helen Pitt Gallery in June 1978 and again in Victoria at the Open Space Gallery in June 1979.[4]

Freeze-dried sculptures[edit]

In an attempt to solve a holographic problem, Gibson experimented with freeze-drying techniques. He produced a series of sculptures that explored the ethics of using legally embalmed animals and humans as art supplies. These sculptures were first exhibited at the Unit/Pitt Gallery in Vancouver, Canada in 1981.[5][6] The same works were later shown in November 1984 at the Cuts Gallery in London, UK.[7]

Fetus earrings[edit]

During the 1984 exhibition of freeze-dried sculptures in London, UK, Gibson was given two dehydrated human fetuses from an anatomy professor. They were 10 weeks in development and had been dehydrated for 20 years. Gibson re-hydrated both fetuses, freeze-dried them and attached them as earrings to a female mannequin head. The sculpture was titled Human Earrings. They were exhibited at the Young Unknowns Gallery in south London in December 1987. On Thursday, 3 December 1987, the sculpture was seized by the Metropolitan Police.[8][9] Because of this incident, Gibson was expelled from Goldsmiths College on 21 December 1987, where he was studying post-graduate art, design and technology.[10] On 11 April 1988, Gibson and the gallery owner, Peter Sylveire, were formally charged with the common law offences of exhibiting a public nuisance and outraging public decency.[11]

The trial started on Monday, 30 January 1989 at the Old Bailey in central London. The judge was Brian Smedley, Michael Worsley was the prosecuting barrister, and Geoffrey Robertson and Francis Irwin were the defence barristers.[12][13] On 6 February 1989, the charge of public nuisance was dismissed.[14] On Tuesday, 9 February 1989, the jury of 10 women and 2 men[15] found Gibson and Sylveire guilty of outraging public decency. Gibson was fined £500 and Sylveire was fined £300.[16][17]

Immediately following the verdict, an appeal application was filed.[18] However, on 10 July 1990, the Court of Appeal dismissed the case and upheld the earlier conviction.[19][20]

There was considerable media commentary about this sculpture before, during, and after the trial.[21][22][23] The court case was also the subject of a one-hour British television programme.[24]

Since the trial, writers such as John A. Walker[25] and Eduardo Kac[26] have continued to reflect on the sculpture and its social implications.

Performance art[edit]

While living in London, Gibson met many performance artists at the Brixton Artists Collective. He did his first performance piece in Reading on 4 January 1986. He walked on the High Street with a dog carrying a sign which said: "Wanted: legally preserved human limbs and human fetuses".[27] He tried to do the same piece again in Brighton on 25 January 1986, but he was arrested and convicted of behaviour likely to cause a breach of the peace.[28] Subsequent performance pieces included standing in front of the Director of Public Prosecutions office in London with a live rat in front of his face,[29] enabling people to kill live insects in Plymouth (where he was arrested but released without charge),[30][31] and questioning the killing of slugs in Vancouver, Canada.[32]


On 23 July 1988, Gibson ate the flesh of another person in public. Because England does not have a specific law against cannibalism, he legally ate a canapé of donated human tonsils in Walthamstow High Street, London.[33][34] A year later, on 15 April 1989, he publicly ate a slice of human testicle in Lewisham High Street, London.[35][36] When he tried to eat another slice of human testicle at the Pitt International Galleries in Vancouver on 14 July 1989, the Vancouver police confiscated the testicle hors d'œuvre.[37] However, the charge of publicly exhibiting it was dropped and he finally ate the piece of human testicle on the steps of the Vancouver court house on 22 September 1989.[38]

Sniffy the rat[edit]

On 28 December 1989, The Province newspaper in Vancouver, Canada, reported that Gibson intended to crush a rat named Sniffy between two paint canvasses with a 25 kilogram concrete block in downtown Vancouver. On impact, Sniffy would leave an imprint on the canvasses, forming a diptych. Gibson said he had acquired Sniffy from a pet store which sold living rats as food for snakes and lizards. The performance was planned to happen on 6 January 1990, outside the old central public library on Burrard Street.[39] Opinion about the impending event was publicly broadcast via newsprint, television, and radio.[40][41]

On the morning of 6 January, a group of animal rights activists from the Lifeforce Foundation illegally stole the device Gibson was going to use to crush the rat. Lifeforce's Peter Hamilton said that it was done to protect both the rat and Gibson. Because of this development, Gibson arrived at the corner of Robson and Burrard at 1 PM without Sniffy or his art making device. He told a crowd of over 300 people that he had returned the rat to the pet store where he had rented it. He encouraged the crowd to go to the pet store and rescue Sniffy before it was sold as snake food. He later told CBC that he had full intentions of killing the animals. As he tried to leave the area, Gibson was surrounded by activists. He, along with Susan Milne[42] and Paddy Ryan, were chased up Burrard Street by a mob. The three of them escaped through the Hotel Vancouver.[43]

Later that day, Sniffy was purchased from the pet store by Peter Hamilton of the Lifeforce Foundation.[44]

Immediately afterwards, cartoonists,[45] writers,[46][47] and the general public[48] commented on the event. Numerous books have also made reference to it.[49][50] Several television shows have also focused on it.[51][52] For the tenth anniversary of the performance, Radix Theatre, under the direction of Andrew Laurenson, created the Sniffy the Rat bus tour.[53]

Outdoor installations[edit]

While living in London, Gibson visited Grizedale Forest in the north of England, which is home to an assortment of outdoor sculptures. In 1992, he received funding from the British Columbia Ministry of Tourism to develop a similar project in the mountains near Vancouver. This project was carried out at the University of British Columbia Research Forest in Maple Ridge during the summer of 1992.[54] After completing this project, he was hired as a curator for Artropolis ’93 in Vancouver. He managed the installation of fourteen site-specific installations in Stanley Park during October and November 1993.[55] Following Artropolis, he was commissioned by the City of Vancouver to design and build four community bird feeders on the Woodland Drive Bridge.[56] Later, he worked with Ed Varney as a public art consultant for the City of Vancouver. They developed the first public art process for the new Vancouver Public Library. Working closely with architect Moshe Safdie, they managed the installation of the Joseph Montague fountain and they established a public art endowment fund.[57] They also wrote the first public art policy for the Vancouver Park Board.[58]

3D computer graphics[edit]

In 1996, Gibson received a research position at the Centre for Image and Sound Research at Simon Fraser University to study anaglyph images. He exhibited some of these images at the 1995 Currents exhibition in Vancouver[59] and in Victoria, BC.[60] In 1996, he built the world’s first completely anaglyphic website.[61] Between 2002 and 2004, he studied 3D lenticular printing for his master's degree.[2] By 2006 he was publicly showing autostereoscopic prints.[62] In 2007 he had a major exhibition of this work at the 3D Center of Art and Photography in Portland, Oregon.[63][64] In February 2011 he exhibited six large lenticular prints at the Blim Gallery in Vancouver, Canada. These prints paid homage to six renowned religious leaders by revealing the penis of God within them.[65]


He gave a talk to the International Society for Anthrozoology (ISAZ) at Cambridge University in July 2012 about the use of live insects in art and entertainment.[66][67] On 8 February 2017 Gibson walked naked in front of the Vancouver Law Courts in the middle of winter to protest Canada's ban of genetic engineering of the human genome. He walked nude in downtown Vancouver for 11 minutes, 45.75 seconds in a light rain and a temperature of 7 degrees Celsius.[68][69]


  1. ^ "Archives: UVic Newspapers: The Martlet, 1970s". University of Victoria Library. Retrieved 3 July 2010.
  2. ^ a b Gibson, Rick (2004). A Process for Creating Autostereoscopic Displays of Historic Stereoscopic Photographs. Surrey, British Columbia: Simon Fraser University.
  3. ^ "Visual Alchemy - Brief Studio History". Al Razutis. Retrieved 2010-05-16.
  4. ^ Gibson, Jim (3 June 1979), "Holography's problem: how to live up to image", Victoria Colonist, Victoria, British Columbia, p. 15
  5. ^ Dykk, Lloyd (13 September 1982), "Dead animals: a new slant on still life", Vancouver Sun, Vancouver, British Columbia, pp. C5
  6. ^ Ferry, Jon (23 September 1982), "Dead animals make shocking art", Vancouver Province, Vancouver, British Columbia, pp. A8
  7. ^ "Rick's show is a dead giveaway", Evening Standard, London, United Kingdom, 13 November 1984
  8. ^ Underwood, Jon (4 December 1987), "Stop the freak show: Police seize human foetus ear-rings", South London Press, London, United Kingdom, pp. front page, 3
  9. ^ Fletcher, David (5 December 1987), "8-week foetuses used to make pendant earrings", Daily Telegraph, London, United Kingdom, p. 3
  10. ^ "College expels foetus ear-ring artist", South London Press, London, United Kingdom, p. 2, 8 January 1988
  11. ^ "Artist charged over foetuses", Daily Telegraph, London, United Kingdom, p. 2, 11 March 1988
  12. ^ Dyer, Clare (31 January 1989), "Foetus earrings sculptor on trial", The Guardian, London, United Kingdom, p. 3
  13. ^ Mills, Heather (31 January 1989), "'Foetuses as art' case hinges on common law", The Independent, London, United Kingdom, p. 3
  14. ^ Wolmar, Christian (7 February 1989), "Nusiance charge in foetus case dismissed", The Independent, London, United Kingdom, p. 3
  15. ^ Berlins, Marcel (17 February 1989), "Ten angry women who ruled against foetus earrings", Newstateman & Society, London, United Kingdom, p. 33
  16. ^ Bowcott, Owen (10 February 1989), "Foetus artist fined £500 for sculpture", The Guardian, London, United Kingdom, p. 3
  17. ^ Weeks, John (10 February 1989), "Art pair fined over foetus earrings", The Daily Telegraph, London, United Kingdom, p. 3
  18. ^ "Ear-rings case appeal begins", The Independent, London, United Kingdom, p. 2, 11 March 1989
  19. ^ R v Gibson and another. Court of Appeal, Criminal Division.[1991] 1 All ER 439, [1990] 2 QB 619, [1990] 3 WLR 595, [1990] Crim LR 738, 91 Cr App Rep 341, 155 JP 126.
  20. ^ "Artist's 'human foetus outrage' appeal dismissed", The Daily Telegraph, London, United Kingdom, p. 4, 11 July 1990
  21. ^ Lang, Peter (19 January 1989), "The macabre art of the foetus jeweller", City Limits, London, United Kingdom, p. 5
  22. ^ Bakewell, Joan (12 February 1989), "Why art needs a special hearing", The Sunday Times, London, United Kingdom, pp. C6
  23. ^ "More heat than light", Newstatesman & Society, London, United Kingdom, p. 5, 17 February 1989
  24. ^ "Broadcasters assume the foetal position", The Sunday Times, London, United Kingdom, pp. Screen 1, 26 February 1989
  25. ^ Walker, John A. (1999). Art & Outrage. London, United Kingdom: Pluto Press. pp. 13, 150–151. ISBN 0-7453-1359-0.
  26. ^ Kac, Eduardo (2009). Signs of Life: Bio Art and Beyond. MIT Press. p. 480. ISBN 0-262-51321-8.
  27. ^ Pert, Suzanne (6 January 1986), "Shoppers hurl abuse at grisly limbs appeal", Reading Evening Post, Reading, United Kingdom, p. 3
  28. ^ "Out on a limb", The Guardian, London, United Kingdom, p. 6, 28 January 1986
  29. ^ Underwood, Jon (22 January 1988), "Ratman!", South London Press, London, United Kingdom, pp. front page
  30. ^ Holman, Jack (13 May 1988), "You don't scare me, Rick!", Western Morning News, Plymouth, United Kingdom, p. 4
  31. ^ "'Kill an insect' artist is held", Evening Herald, Plymouth, United Kingdom, pp. front page, 14 May 1988
  32. ^ "Artist ponders death of literate slugs", Vancouver Sun, Vancouver, Canada, pp. C6, 27 October 1989
  33. ^ "Hard to stomach, but Rick eats human parts", Waltham Forest Guardian, London, United Kingdom, p. 6, 29 July 1988
  34. ^ Young, Andrew (4 August 1988), "Rick eats his mate's tonsils on a cracker!", The Sun, Plymouth, United Kingdom, p. 3
  35. ^ White, Kim (14 April 1989), "Now Rick's really gone nuts!", Guardian & Gazette Newspapers, London, United Kingdom, p. 8
  36. ^ "Rick's food for thought", The Mercury, London, United Kingdom, p. 5, 20 April 1989
  37. ^ Stueck, Wendy (15 July 1989), "Would-be cannibal's appetizer confiscated", Vancouver Sun, Vancouver, Canada, pp. A7
  38. ^ "No charges laid over artist's testicle claim", Vancouver Sun, Vancouver, Canada, pp. B1, 22 August 1988
  39. ^ Austin, Ian (28 December 1989). "Sniffy faces awful end". The Province. Vancouver, Canada: 6.
  40. ^ Trethewey, John (29 December 1989). "Rat-killing plan gets promise of trouble". The Province. Vancouver, Canada: 13.
  41. ^ Mentek, John (3 January 1990). "Fight on to save rat from squashing block". The Spectator. Hamilton, Ontario, Canada: B3.
  42. ^ Milne, Susan (February 1990). "The making of a metaphor". Noise. Vancouver, Canada: 23.
  43. ^ Austin, Ian (7 January 1990). "Mad mob rattles artist". Sunday Province. Vancouver, Canada: front page, 3.
  44. ^ Fraser, Keith (8 January 1990). "Sniffy has found a new home". The Province. Vancouver, Canada: 6.
  45. ^ Krieger, Bob (9 January 1990). "Krieger". The Province. Vancouver, Canada: 18.
  46. ^ Allemang, John (13 January 1990). "Sniffy's ordeal, or a portrait of the artist as a rat fink". The Globe and Mail. Toronto, Canada: D1, D2.
  47. ^ Steeves, Jon (Spring 1991). "Snuffing Sniffy" (PDF). Vancouver Review. Vancouver, Canada: 13, 14, 16.
  48. ^ "I'm glad he was saved, but life's not always that simple". Seattle Times. Seattle, USA: A7. 22 January 1990.
  49. ^ Mortensen, Preben (1997). Art in the Social Order: the Making of the Modern Conception of Art. Albany, New York: State University of New York Press. p. 13. ISBN 0-7914-3277-7.
  50. ^ Heyd, Thomas (1991). "Understanding Performance Art: Art Beyond Art". British Journal of Aesthetics. Oxford University Press. 31 (1): 68. doi:10.1093/bjaesthetics/31.1.68.
  51. ^ Pacific Report. Vancouver, Canada. 22 January 1990. television. CBC.
  52. ^ "Illuminations (television)". E.N.G. Vancouver, Canada. 14 November 1991. television. BCTV.
  53. ^ DaFoe, Chris (23 October 2001). "In East Van, tour group celebrates a rat's celebrity". Vancouver Sun. Vancouver, Canada: E5.
  54. ^ Hefter, Abe (16 July 1992). "Art and science to join hands in forest". UBC Reports. Vancouver, Canada: 3.
  55. ^ "Art to adorn park seawall". West Ender. Vancouver, Canada: 2. 4 February 1993.
  56. ^ Steil, John; Stalker, Aileen (2009). Public Art in Vancouver: Angels Among Lions. Vancouver, Canada: Heritage Group Distribution. ISBN 1-894898-79-6.
  57. ^ Wilson, Peter (26 May 1995). "Something new every two years". Vancouver Sun. Vancouver, Canada: C7.
  58. ^ Ouston, Rick (18 March 1997). "'Sniffy the Rat' comes back to haunt artist hired by parks board". Vancouver Sun. Vancouver, Canada: B1.
  59. ^ Wilson, Peter (16 March 1995). "Rushing to keep up with the Currents trend in art". Vancouver Sun. Vancouver Sun: C1.
  60. ^ Chamberlain, Adrian (5 June 1997). "Pictures in the third dimension". Times-Colonist. Victoria, BC, Canada: 1.
  61. ^ Kelley, Tina (7 May 1998). "Adding a Dimension to Web Art". New York Times. New York, NY: G4.
  62. ^ "Taking 3D art out of the Crackerjack box and into your home". Vancouver Sun. Vancouver, Canada: C3. 30 June 2006.
  63. ^ Levy, Shab (2009). 3D Art & Photography: The First Five Years. Portland, Oregon, USA: Gravitram Creations. pp. 141–144. ISBN 978-0-9815949-1-0.
  64. ^ "Dustless Sculptures" (PDF). 3D Center of Art and Photography. Retrieved 2010-09-30.
  65. ^ McMartin, Pete (12 February 2011). "Holy genitalia: 3-D portraits not insulting, artist says". Vancouver Sun. Vancouver, Canada: A9.
  66. ^ "ISAZ 2012 The Arts and Sciences of Human–Animal Interaction 11 to 13 July 2012, Murray Edwards College, Cambridge, UK" (PDF). ISAZ. International Society for Anthrozoology. 12 July 2012. Retrieved 5 July 2017.
  67. ^ "Rick Gibson" on YouTube
  68. ^ Smith, Charlie (7 February 2017). "Snffy the Rat artist plans a naked walk in downtown Vancouver". The Georgia Straight. Vancouver, Canada. Retrieved 5 July 2017.
  69. ^ Griffin, Kevin (10 February 2017). "ART SEEN: Performance art protest gets cheeky in downtown Vancouver". Vancouver Sun. Vancouver, Canada. Retrieved 5 July 2017.

External links[edit]