It's easy to mock modern art as being full of ridiculous, attention-grabbing shenanigans (and in fact we have). However, there are still artists out there who suffer for their work ... literally. Here are the most insane things people have done to themselves in the name of art -- the end result may still be ridiculous, and it may still be bullshit, but nobody could call these people lazy.
Marc Quinn is a British artist who was inspired by Rembrandt's idea to make a portrait of himself every few years, and he decided to do the same thing ... only with blood. His own blood. Which he freezes, and uses to make terrifying sculptures of his head.
Why couldn't he just use the blood to paint the portrait, like a normal crazy artist?
Each blood head takes Quinn 9 pints of blood to make -- that's about the amount that's in the human body. He collects it by going to the doctor every six weeks for an entire year and withdrawing a pint each time, like when you donate blood, except without the part where it helps anyone. Quinn has created five of these heads so far, one every five years since 1991, with the purpose of documenting his aging process and nose hair growth.
Hyde or Die
"2001 ... still creepy as all hell."
Most of the heads are in private collections, and in 2009, one of them was sold to the National Portrait Gallery in the U.K. for $465,000. Obviously, storing and displaying the bloody things is a pain in the ass -- the heads have to be kept in a freezer display at all times, otherwise they'll start melting down like the Nazis at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark. Imagine the museum workers mopping up a puddle of hundreds of thousands of dollars in human blood from the floor.
"Hey, wait a minute, this is just cherry Kool-Aid!"
Quinn says that the last head will be created after he dies, using all the blood drained from his body. Going by the average lifespan of a human male, there will be 90 pints of his blood around at that point, which is enough to recreate that scene from The Shining if they all melt at the same time.
When Japanese artist Hananuma Masakichi found out that he was dying of tuberculosis in 1885, he did what any of us would do in that situation: He created a perfect replica of his body to leave to the woman he loved, as a reminder of that swell guy she once dated who was nuts.
He's the original RealDoll.
Masakichi worked in a room full of adjustable mirrors to document and sculpt every inch of his body, right down to the veins and the pores, using between 2,000 and 5,000 little strips of dark wood joined together with pegs, glue and dovetail joints. No seams can be seen, even with a magnifying glass. No nails were used in the sculpture ... except for the artist's actual fingernails.
No, seriously. Here they are:
If you're going to be stuck with one hand gesture for eternity, it might as well be "The Shocker."
In order to make his duplicate as accurate as possible, Masakichi began pulling out his own hair and nails and stuck them at the same points on the sculpture, going as far as to drill tiny holes on its surface to represent the exact pores he'd just grabbed the little hairs from. And yep, that includes the pubes. Reportedly he even pulled out his own teeth and put them on his double, which is especially insane because you can barely see them through its slightly open mouth.
Masakichi on the right, statue on the left. Maybe.
Once this death-fueled monument to his own insanity was finished, Masakichi held an exhibition where he would stand next to the now clothed sculpture, daring people to guess which of the two was the artist. Hint: It's the one who keeps scratching his crotch every five minutes because he just pulled out his freaking dong hair.
And then, after all that effort, the tuberculosis didn't even have the decency to kill him: Instead, his girlfriend left him (presumably for the statue) and he died 10 years later, broke, unhappy and maybe even toothless. The statue was eventually bought by Robert Ripley from Ripley's Believe It or Not! for the astonishingly large sum of $10 in the early 20th century.
The exact nature of art has been debated for centuries. Does, for example, getting shot in the arm with a .22 caliber rifle count as art? Performance artist Chris Burden certainly hopes so, because that's exactly what he fucking did.
"Remember, it's only art if you hit me in the arm. Not in the dick. Don't hit my dick."
The idea of Burden's 1971 piece Shoot was that a friend would shoot at him with a rifle and graze his bicep, because, you know ... Vietnam, and stuff, we guess? However, Burden's friend apparently decided "Fuck this guy" at the last minute and actually hit him in the arm with the bullet, an experience that an unfazed Burden described as "horrible but ... interesting."
Good news, everyone who's ever been violently mugged -- you're a pretentious artist now!
Accident or not, Burden was satisfied with the result and continued inflicting bodily harm upon himself in the name of art, like that time a few years later when he literally crucified himself on the roof of a Volkswagen car. The car was then driven across the city with him nailed on top, a feat so baffling that it was later seamlessly incorporated into the lyrics of a David Bowie song.
The driver missed an opportunity by not using a road with more speed bumps.
These types of shenanigans date back to his college days: For his MFA thesis, Burden curled himself inside a locker that was 2 feet wide, 2 feet high and 3 feet deep for five consecutive days, without any food, no doubt to raise awareness of all the teen movie nerds who go through the same thing every year. Another time, he nailed his wrists, legs and neck to the floor with copper bands and put two copper buckets filled with water nearby, with wires running 110 volts of electricity through them. If they had wanted to, visitors could have spilled the water and electrocuted Burden. Somehow, nobody did.
At this point an old friend walked by and shot him with a rifle.
We've all seen a piece of modern art and thought, "That looks like something my cat puked up." Artist Millie Brown took that as a compliment and began creating real pieces of art made out of real puke (her own), which real human beings pay money for.
It helps that she feeds exclusively on Skittles.
Brown doesn't eat anything for two days before she starts "painting," because if half a Cheeto shows up in her work, she might have to pay a licensing fee (also, if there's no food it's less gross and doesn't stink). She then drinks colored milk, pokes her fingers into her mouth and pukes liquid rainbows onto a canvas to create her artwork, which can take several hours to complete. So she starves, drinks excessively and spends hours continuously puking -- basically, she figured out how to monetize the lifestyle of a college freshman.
She has the same fashion style, too.
She also does this in front of audiences, who are so moved/grossed out that presumably they go on to create their own works of art right there and then. Here's a short video of a performance in which Brown incorporated two women singing opera to liven things up:
The end result sold for $2,400, and it looks something like this:
If we know our milk, those colors change pretty quickly.
Brown became so renowned for her work that she got invited to puke all over Lady Gaga for a video that's displayed during her Monster Ball tour. Only about 50 other people on the planet can say that they've done the same thing.