“The anger of these people, like that of the dogs, just needs an excuse in order to explode,” Sun said, reflecting on the brouhaha. Ironically, the artists’ aim with the film was to expose the horrors of dog fighting. By tethering two dogs who are trained to fight on treadmills, they actually prohibited them from harming each other. Yet for their pacifist project, Sun and Peng received death threats. Their work, in this way, brought out other people’s worst instincts and their most violent fantasies.
Munroe, who co-curated the Guggenheim exhibition, commented, “They are starkly atheist, bluntly realist—and therefore the bravest artists I know.” She sees “zero idealism” in their work.
Sun, for his part, reflects on the whole episode with distanced intrigue. He believes it was, ultimately, an enlightening reflection of his audience’s mentality. “This is what my work is like—sometimes a physics experiment, other times a biological one, other times a psychological one,” he said.
Sun and Peng have also made work about firearm handling and predation. Their 2013 performance If seeing is not an option featured blindfolded participants picking up guns, while their 2006 piece Waiting featured a giant fake vulture atop a perch. The insidious element that pervades the duo’s work reflects on our own fear, sense of danger, and cognitive distortions. The work often asks, “What do we perceive as a threat? And why?”