When I broke the neck of my sick
cat and then made a handbag of her skin, I honestly had no idea of
what I had got myself into.
The project was an artwork entitled My dearest cat Pinkeltje with
which I wanted to launch a discussion about the hypocrisy of how we
keep animals both as part of our families and simultaneously
as a comodity to be consumed. We live in a culture where the
origin of our food or clothing is seldom seen and we hand our sick
pets over to an expert to be given a lethal injection to end their
suffering. Did you know that there is still disagreement about the
‘painless’ euthanasia done performance by a
professional vet? People in rural areas, where they take such
matters into their own hands, laugh at these tales from the
I uploaded a manual in which I described step-by-step how to kill
your cat and then how to prepare a bag of it. - I gave
presentations in which I described these acts.
Outcry from the online world followed. Blogs and activist sites
published stories about the atrocity I had committed: The killing
of my cat.
Chain mails rotated: “A sick woman has murdered her cat as
art and the bitch must die. Do not look at her website because she
earns money on that”. To them, the fact that I also had made
a purse out of her skin showed my disrespect towards the animal
kingdom all the more.
In the first few days that the story went online, more than 40,000
unique visitors visited my website and my mailbox was flooded with
violent threats and death wishes.
In 4 years I have received about 100,000 responses.
The senders came from all walks of life; visible because many
emails automatically included a signature with a link to a personal
or company website. They were easy to google.. Most hate mail came
from the combination of a false sense of anonymity and the idea
that everything digital is “not authentic”; I had the
impression that people who described graphically how they wanted to
tear me apart, rape me and bleed me to death would not say such
thing to my face.
People wished me things in which they themselves failed. One
morbidly obese woman who was very active on dieting forums cursed
my hideous appearance. Amateur Artists argued my failure as an
artist. Animal rights activists cursed my work because they
believed I encourage animal abuse.
Frequently you could tell from the e-mail the most recent horror
movie the writer had seen in the violent scenarios described.
There was little substantive variation in the hate mail I received
which, given the amount of typos and the overuse of capital letters
were were full of passion.
I decided that it had to be a book and I approached Coralie
Vogelaar to assist me. For almost a year she studied the contents
of my mailbox and she researched online for the identity of
The hate mails were categorized and in total we defined twelve
variations of content and format, which became the chapters in my
book. We published not only the hate mails, but also all the
information we found on Facebook profiles, Amazon wish lists,
YouTube accounts etcetera that was linked to the email address of
Often writers have public profiles on multiple sites and the
combination of the data from different websites gives a very
comprehensive picture of the “private” lives of these
people. In some instances we even found pictures of their houses on
Shocking to note was that most death threats were sent by people
who appeared quite normal; sweet-looking teenage girls, policemen,
housewives, office-workers. With only a few exceptions, these were
not people you would expect to brawl, let alone issue a death
Publishing a complete profile in the book was a way to bring the
writer to account- you want me dead, but who are you anyway?
It also allowed for the anonymous status web-users often delude
themselves into believing exists to be brought into question. How
public is your online information and how much harm can an online
diary do when the whole world has access to your personal life? For
me important questions that should be giving attention to in
primary school. Webethics and privacyguides. - And
maybe a little decency.
During the years that I became used to the insulting and
threatening hate-mail that was sent to me, I had a front-line view
to bear witness to a new development in which varying degrees of
anger-expression entered the online world.
What were once standard 'babelfish-translated' letters circulated
between friend’s e-mail networks, distributed with the
intention to copy-paste them en-masse to my mailbox are now
anti-TINKEBELL. facebook pages, online petitions and amateurishly
written "news”-blogs spreading the globe.
The biggest difference is that the hate-mails are no longer send to
my private mailbox. The threat is now public. This results in
competitions; who is the most irate writer? Who knows how to
insight the most fury in men?
Everything is permitted.
Online petitions are more likely to be signed when the story has
been exaggerated and laced with vile descriptions. A blog is
validated by the grace of “likes” on facebook,
Thumblr-reblogs or, better still, “The Real News”
(traditional news media, i.e. News Papers etc.) who take advantage
of this. If there are enough online quotes to use as a source, even
if it is not the truth, the most-told story may be published as
"trustful news". This will often be a compilation of the most
far-fetched, sensational accounts that attracks the most readers,
advertisers and again-reblogs to yield themselves as a mutating
story in more and more languages to travel around the
And so now I rarely get a threat because I twisted my sick cat's
neck. No, it’s because there are "hundreds of pets in my house that I torture
every day, just for fun ofcourse. The living chicks that I hang on
hooks until they bleed to death and the hundred hamsters from which
I took the eyes out, put them into balls for weeks, spinning until
they died of starvation." – published in several
newspapers and websites worldwide such as the Polish Gazeta
Wyborca, the Italian Leggo.it and many more.
Recently, I myself made the first response under such a story on an
animal activist newsblog to make clear to both writer and readers
that the truth lay somewhere else. One of the responses I got was
that as google results clearly indicated that I really took
pleasure in my daily animal-torture-habits, the story had to be
The notion of "truth" has taken on a new meaning by this way of