It is the question that has beguiled and bedeviled mankind for 17 years: Who let the dogs out? Who let the dogs out? Who let the dogs out? Who? Who? Who? Who? Long have we petitioned the universe and sports stadiums, and now that quest will finally be laid bare for archivists to, hopefully, piece together an answer. The Museum of Who Let Who Let The Dogs Out Out? will open Feb. 28 inside the Conde Nast Building in Times Square, where artist Ben Sisto will display “over 200 CDs, LPs, shirts, toys, and promotional items related to my seven-year investigation into the origins of the WLDTO hook/chorus,” as heard on the Baha Men’s inescapable 2000 hit. The gallery, presented by arts collective The Midnight Society, represents the culmination of Sisto’s self-proclaimed status as “the world’s leading expert on the history of ‘Who Let The Dogs Out?’”—a title which he will now, after having put together this exhibit, no longer have to defend from challengers.
In years past, members of the Bahamian group have explained the origins of “Who Let The Dogs Out?” by saying that it was written by Trinidadian artist Anslem Douglas, who released the song under the name “Doggie.” But, as with asking who let the dogs out, the answer is not so simple. Douglas has himself been involved in several lawsuits over credit for the song’s creation, most famously accused by Canadian producers Leroy Williams and Patrick Stephenson in 2002 of stealing the hook from a radio ad they wrote seven years prior. They eventually settled out of court, suggesting the pair was at least nominally responsible for letting the dogs out.
Douglas also wrangled with his onetime collaborator Ossie Gurley over whether the latter let the dogs out together, or Gurley simply “arranged” the music that played as the dogs were being let out. Their imbroglio became even messier after Chuck Smooth, with the cooperation of Gurley’s publishing partners Wingspan, recorded a hip-hop version of ”Who Let The Dogs Out?” that debuted in 1999—two full years before the Baha Men. After their version became a massive hit, Wingspan also came looking for its share of the accolades for letting the dogs out.
In short, untangling who, exactly, was actually responsible for letting the dogs out and for crafting lines like “A doggy is nuttin’ if he don’t have a bone / Oh doggy, hold ya bone, oh doggy hold it” has tied up our courts and ruined our relationships for years. And now the connective threads of that mystery will be laid bare in Sisto’s collection of ephemera, which includes everything from versions of “Who Let The Dogs Out?” performed by The Simpsons and Crazy Frog, to classic records by George Clinton and Kraftwerk that Sisto believes to be clear influences on these dogs and the way they were let out.
Sisto’s investigative history dates all the way back to “1959 and earlier”—back to, quite possibly, the moment of the primordial singularity, when our universe first began rapidly expanding and cooling before finally exploding outward in a dizzying, infinite stream of quarks, letting the dogs out. Of course, this all depends on whether you subscribe to the theory of creationism. If you choose to believe it was God who let the dogs out, that’s your business. Far be it from me to question your faith.
And sure, you might say that opening a gallery exhibit that’s dedicated entirely to displaying ephemera related to one of the dumbest, most irritating songs ever contributed to our cultural lexicon is, well, kind of stupid, a monumental waste of effort that epitomizes the self-referential, ironic emptiness of so much postmodern “art” and arguably turns the whole exercise into a joke—that if Marcel Duchamp could witness the attempt to make someone’s collection of “Who Let The Dogs Out?” crap into some sort of Dadaist statement, he’d take his urinal and bash his own brains out. HE’D BASH HIS BRAINS OUT! BASH! BASH! BASH! BASH!
But then again, who are you to say what is and isn’t “art”? Who? Who? Who?
The Museum of Who Let Who Let The Dogs Out Out? will run through March 6. However, it will not tell you why.