Is the "Orvillecopter" — a four-propellered remote-controlled dead cat assembled by Dutch artist Bart Jansen and currently on display the Kunstrai art festival in Amsterdam — a thoughtful tribute to Jansen's late cat, a cynical grab at attention beyond the insular art world, a biting indictment of U.S. military drone policy … or just gross?
The kitty copter currently burning up the Internet is "half cat, half machine," Jansen said in a SkyNews interview. Orville the deceased cat, himself named for aviation pioneer Orville Wright, was hit by a car, Jansen said. “After a period of mourning, he received his propellers posthumously."
While Americans may be as surprised as Orville appears to be, as he soars around, spread-eagled, the repurposing of dead pets isn't unusual outside the United States.
"This is sort of a European flavor of art making," explained a bemused Paddy Johnson when I asked the well-known art blogger WTF in a phone interview. Artists outside the United States have a history of finding new uses for expired household pets, Johnson went on to explain. That this dead cat can also fly, however, is somewhat new.
Another Dutch artist, Katinka Simonse, is known (and reviled) for her dead animal art projects — most infamously a purse made from her 3-year-old cat Pinkeltje. Unlike Jansen, Simonse, aka TINKEBELL, didn't wait for nature, or traffic, to take its course. She claims to have snapped her cat's neck herself. Yet Simonse says her work brings attention to animal suffering.
Far from endearing, Simonse's art piece made from her dead cat earned her so much hate mail, she published what she says is just 1 percent of the torrent of anger in a book entitled "Dearest Tinkebell," which also includes personal info about the hate mailers.
Reactions to Jansen's "Orvillecopter" are far more favorable. Even the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals can't quite condemn the Dutch oddity. In a statement provided to msnbc.com, PETA proclaimed: "It's a macabre way to honor a beloved family member."