MADRID, SPAIN-

Two months ago over a hundred cows were set up one night in Spain capital. Just like that. One day the corners are simple, everyday Spanish-capital corners and the next, every other one is adorned with a myriad  of fiberglass cows painted every sort of design and color imaginable.

This naturally makes the tourists smile and sparkle and snap their photos standing next to these fake plastic  cows.

They clearly don’t read or care about the sign at the bottom of each cow that lists the artists’ name, the title of the piece and the little label that reads in capital letters: PLEASE DO NOT TOUCH THE COW.

Most of them touch the cow.


Some of them ride the cow.

Some of them oblige their children to sit on the cow and frown.

According to the Cow Parade website, it is the largest and most public art event in the world.

An estimated count puts about 100 million people seeing this public “art” throughout the world.

Dublin, Sao Paolo, Chicago, New York, London, Buenos Aires, Tokyo and Milan are just a few of the more than 50 cities that have hosted the fiberglass bovines, each herd of them painted distinctly by the country’s own artists and later are auctioned off for charity. Apparently they’ved rasied over $20 million dollars since 1999.

Over 2500 cows have been made since it started a decade ago and no two are identical.

Celebrity painters of cows include David Lynch, Ron Wood (from The Rolling Stones) and Radiohead. Oprah Winfrey, Elton John and Ringo Starr all own one.

This is all hunky dory, but I keep asking myself:

Why cows?

Why now?

The website answers the first one:

This is a popular question. Simply, the cow is a universally beloved animal. The cow represents different things to different people around the world-she’s sacred, she’s historical, she connects us to our past-but the common feeling is one of affection. There is something magical about the cow that transcends throughout the world. She simply makes everyone smile.

Does “she” make you smile? When I think of which animals make me smile I tend toward little bitty kitty cats and puppy dogs, maybe bunny rabbits. Hell, even pigs spark a grin across this face. But cows? Not even in the top five. Not unless I’m really hungry and she comes out juicy and a little pink on the inside.

The website also explains that the cow is the perfect animal on which to paint because of “the form, flexibility, and contiguous breadth” of it.

While I don’t doubt that the contiguous breadth of a life-size fiberglass cow can make it a good candidate for painting on, I don’t see how fiberglass models of cow bodies can be seen as flexible, especially when compared to, say, a canvas, which is unarguably more pliable.

In an effort to get a gain an accurate overview of what this annoying art movement provides Madrid, I went cow hunting one day. In total, I shot about 25 cows, not all of which made this post.

At least here in Madrid, three different forms of the cow are possible.

The standard and most frequent cow, standing on all fours:

The cow standing on two legs:

 

 

The cow either lying down or…

bathing in a tea cup?

Suffice it to say the verisimilitude of these cows is not to be taken seriously.

Nor, as I said before, are they to be touched, which tourists did time and time again in my cow hunt.

 

 

 

tourist down on bended knee several seconds away from touching the cow

The effects of the multitudes touching these cows only leads to the the inevitable rubbing-off of the cow’s painted outer layer, otherwise referred to–by some–as art.

While the vast majority of the cows were average at best or underwhelming…

A handful of them stood out as exceptionally rendered:

Van Gogh Cow

leggo/cubist cow

wooden cow

devilish bovine with naked, hot-bodied, blue, freaky girl riding atop wearing some sort of skull on her head. (also known as: “Airbrush Comes to Life”)

Across the street from the Prado, the curators at La Caixa Forum, a relatively small and trendy museum, decided to put out some Rodin sculptures in front. They’ve called it: Arte en la calle (Art in the street).

Half a dozen sculptures adorn the entrance area of the Forum.

I kept wondering why no one seemed to be looking at these true works of art. Because they don’t have any color? Because they were made in the image of man, instead of the other, the animal?

They were muted bronzes, intimating elusive notions just waiting to be discovered by whoever stood and pondered. They were trapped in space and time while people walked freely by, ignoring them, secretly salivating for the next grouping of colorful cows which they could touch and take a soon-to-be-forgotten photo in front of and maybe show to a few friends when they returned home, maybe not.

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KIP TOBIN's real name is Stephen Christopher Tobin, but no one really calls him that, not even his mom. His favorite letter is "i", which is also one his least favorite words; his favorite words tend to include euphonious consonants like Ls and Rs and Ss, such as surly luscious allure. He relocated to middle America last year. He writes fiction and nonfiction but will not tweet. He's currently working on his doctorate in Latin American Literatures and Cultures, studying the intersection of the body, vision and media in contemporary Hispanic Science Fiction . If asked, he will tell you that S. Gautauma pretty much summed 'er all up when he said: All things are transient. Work out your own salvation. He's constantly in that latter process, all the while trying to become as present and aware as he possibly can in this world of simulacra and simulations. You can leave a message on the board here and he will try to get to back with you. His alter ego sometimes posts music mixes on Tip Robin's Mega Maxi Music Mix Mash (tiprobin.blogspot.com), which is unsearchable on the internet and something of a micro, gotta-be-in-the-know phenomenon. He's no longer a part of the social networking revolution. The revolution, it seems, will not be televised but rather streamed, and he hopes he's not watching it. He wishes everyone good luck whenever he can. Good luck.

6 responses to “PLEASE DO NOT TOUCH  THE COW”

  1. Irene Zion says:

    Kip,
    That’s crazy!
    There’s no one even near the real art.
    The people are bovine, all herding around the cows, eh?

    • Kip Tobin says:

      Absolutely. It was a staggering revelation to see no one interested in the real deal, but it definitely made sense, much in the same way that Two and Half Men is consistently rated as the no.1 prime time TV show while shows like Parks and Recreation never even make it in the top 20. The same goes for many movies, like why Valentine’s Day was no.1 at the box office while far superior films like Crazy Heart and Up in the Air don’t even break the top 10.

      The same goes for literature.

      So it goes.

      • Irene Zion says:

        Kip,

        Have you seen the movie called “The Wrestler” with Mickey Roark? It is almost exactly the same movie as “Crazy Heart” and, honestly, I think it was even better, believe it or not. Promise you’ll rent it or netflick it or whatever people do nowadays. Then get back to me. The same movie. Both amazing. The Wrestler got critical praise, but not the following that “Crazy Heart” did.

  2. Rico Futzu says:

    The IPFW college campus in northern Indiana copied this idea and created sixty or a hundred, i cannot recall,of their mascots, the mastodon. An auction was held for charity.

  3. Kip Tobin says:

    I must admit Rico that the idea of statues of mastodons appeals to me much more so than cows.

    I initially liked the idea of these cows, thought it pretty cool to see these colorful plastic molds at every corner, attracting people and uniting them in their tourist-like gaze of them.

    I wonder how the mastodons came off.

  4. Dana Jamison says:

    Kip-

    Hilarious take on a city beset by bovine phenomenon.

    -Dana Jamison (Rankin Drive:)

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