7 Horrifying Uses of the Human Body to Create Art
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.
Draining All the Artist's Blood to Sculpt a Head
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.
"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.
Pulling Out Hair, Nails and Teeth to Create a Sculpture of the Artist's Own Body
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.
Getting Shot in the Arm and Nailed to a Car for Performance Art
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.
Drinking Painted Milk and Puking It Onto a Canvas
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.
Intentionally Pissing Red to Create a Portrait of Iron Man
In 2012, Taiwanese art student Wong Tin Cheung was taking a leak when he realized that there was blood in his urine. Any panic he might have felt at that moment was replaced by exhilaration a few seconds later when he looked down at the combination of red and yellow in his toilet and thought, "Holy shit, that sorta looks like Iron Man!"
This is probably not the first time Robert Downey Jr. has been in this exact same spot.
When a museum of fine arts in China announced a $13,500 prize for an art competition, Cheung, a big fan of Marvel Comics, decided to recreate his masterpiece for it -- first he spent two months tracking down a toilet bowl with the exact shape of Iron Man's helmet, which it turns out isn't as easy as we'd always assumed. Next, he turned his urine red again by eating colored pigments, when he could have probably just asked a friend to kick him in the balls and gotten the same result.
"When you need someone to take a bat to your kidneys, that's when you find out who your real friends are."
Finally, he used saliva to make Iron Man's eyes, which he had to do every hour while he waited for the judges to review the other entries. All this hard work paid off when Cheung's toilet portrait beat the 600 other contestants and was awarded the first prize, presumably just to get him to flush the damn thing since it was seriously stinking up the room.
It's probably a good thing he didn't go for War Machine.
Cheung achieved worldwide fame thanks to his Blood Iron Man series, and it's only a matter of time before Marvel asks him to draw the official comic book with his penis. All because he peed blood one day. Anyway, he's probably dead now, because that's not normal.
Digging Up Corpses to Turn Them into Statues
Honore Fragonard was a French anatomist in the 18th century and a cousin of hotshot painter Jean-Honore Fragonard. Perhaps as revenge on his famous cousin for having stolen his name, the anatomist decided to go into the art world as well, only in a slightly more insane manner: by turning the corpses he studied into nightmarish sculptures.
Yeah, that sure showed him.
Fragonard acquired the corpses from "executions, medical schools and even fresh graves," then embalmed them using a secret method that still isn't fully understood, which we're choosing to interpret as evidence that he was a necromancer. Apparently, from what today's scientists can gather, he'd inject the corpses with a fluid of his own invention, then isolate and dissect each organ and use rods and screws to put them back together again in deranged poses, sometimes combining parts from humans and animals. Finally, he'd paint the blood vessels and varnish the entire remodeled corpse to keep the bugs off.
Just kidding. Even the bugs are too freaked out to go near this thing.
Fragonard prepared around 700 corpses this way, of which only 21 still survive. Among them is his most famous work, a skeletal man riding an equally terrifying horse, originally surrounded by an army of human fetuses mounted on sheep and horse fetuses, plus more fetuses dancing. The rider is on display in a museum, but it's unclear what happened to the fetus army.
What we're saying is that it's entirely possible that they'll turn up in your room one night.
Others include a man with the jawbone of a donkey, and a group of flayed monkeys clapping for reasons that only Fragonard and the voices in his head could comprehend. Fragonard did all this while serving as the first professor of anatomy at the world's first veterinary school for six years, until he was kicked out in 1771 for being a madman and a weirdo.
According to rumors, the fetus-surrounded horse rider was actually his fiancee ... who killed herself, but this has been disproved (which actually makes it more terrifying, because at least that would have explained why he did those things). We'll just have to wait until his creations bring forth the apocalypse to find out.
Letting the Audience Do Anything to the Artist. Literally Anything.
If the artists we've mentioned so far have something in common, besides being crazy, it's that they all did these things to themselves: They pulled out their own nails, made themselves vomit or told their friends to shoot them to shock us or weird us out, while we normal people scratched our heads and laughed. Serbian-born performance artist Marina Abramovic turned that around by letting the audience decide what to do to her ... and it wasn't pretty.
Turns out museum visitors are assholes.
After pulling off relatively tame performance pieces like the one where she intentionally stabbed her fingers 40 times or when she laid down in the middle of a burning wooden star and almost died, Abramovic took things to the next level with her 1974 piece Rhythm 0, in which she simply stood in front of a table with 72 items on it, including a gun, metal chains, an axe and razor blades.
It was inspired by her S.T.A.L.K.E.R. inventory.
A sign informed the audience that they could do literally anything to Abramovic with these items, and she wouldn't say anything or resist. At first, they just played around with her, tickling her with feathers or using her as a coat rack, presumably. However, little by little, they started getting more aggressive. Someone tore off her clothes and pressed thorns into her stomach. Another person cut her neck with a knife and licked her blood. Then, a woman grabbed the gun from the table, loaded it with a bullet and made Abramovic point it at her own neck, pressing her fingers to see if she resisted. She didn't. This went on for six hours.
It wasn't the best day to organize a museum visit from Sociopaths Anonymous.
After the six hours were over, Abramovic snapped out of it and began walking toward the audience, who freaked and ran away. The disturbing part about Abramovic's performance is that, as crazy as she was for coming up with the idea, the completely normal people who happened to be visiting the museum that day turned out to be even worse. So she ... made her point, we guess?
Rayan is also known as Bama Bhai, and you can follow him on Twitter here.
For more art we wish we never knew about, check out 5 Works of Art That Can Probably Kill You and 5 Works of Legitimate Mad Science Passed Off as Art.