Sunday, May 11, 2014

Blood and Gore in the Name of Art

Sometime in March this year, artist He Yunchang painted the fingernails and toenails of ten mannequins – with his own blood. Some of us may consider this act bizarre but I find it titillating. 

"I want to convey the message that I am ready to pay a high price to show my concern" about the world, said the 48-year-old, a married father of one. 

"My principle is that, if it's worth the pain, then my safety comes second. But I keep things under control. It is important that I do not let myself die." 

He Yunchang is an extreme performance artist from China. His blood-drenched, often naked masochistic displays are intended to demonstrate that some things are worth making sacrifices for. 

In a 2010 performance titled "One Meter Democracy", He gathered twenty-five people for a poll on whether he should endure a knife gash – without anesthetic – from his collarbone to his knee. The idea was approved by 12 to 10, with three abstentions, and a doctor carried out the incision in a procedure that lasted for a few minutes, with voters posing for a group photo afterward while He lay naked and bloodied on a bed. 















 
Image credit: http://melanieinbeijing.blog.sohu.com/160870631.html

The artist has also stared at panels of 10,000 glaring watts of light bulbs to damage his eyesight, encased himself in a cube of quick-setting concrete for 24 hours, and burned his clothes while wearing them. 

And He once hung upside down from a crane for 90 minutes holding a knife in a rushing river, blood dripping from cuts in his arms made with the blade, in a symbolic mixing of the liquids. 

And another time, he had a 23-cm rib surgically removed – on the auspicious, once-in-a-century date of 8/8/08 as China celebrated the opening day of the Beijing Olympics – and it hangs around his neck on a gold loop, dragons' heads biting down on either end. 

The operation was intended to demonstrate his own individual autonomy, he said, a decision he could take for himself "while many other things are out of my control". 












Above: He Yunchang wearing a rib necklace he made; right: He, who is scarred from head to toe, is seen here in a snapshot taken on April 18, 2014, with his mother, who is wearing the3 same necklace, in his studio in Beijing, China. Pics/AFP

He Yunchang  wearing the necklace he made during his project ‘One Rib’; (above) He, who is battered with scars from top to toe, is seen here (right) in a snapshot taken on April 18, 2014, with his mother, who is wearing the necklace, in his studio in Beijing. Pics/AFP - See more at: http://www.mid-day.com/articles/bizarre-chinese-artist-sports-his-own-rib-as-a-necklace/15286165#sthash.qEGYoRBY.dpuf
e Yunchang  wearing the necklace he made during his project ‘One Rib’; (above) He, who is battered with scars from top to toe, is seen here (right) in a snapshot taken on April 18, 2014, with his mother, who is wearing the necklace, in his studio in Beijing. Pics/AFP - See more at: http://www.mid-day.com/articles/bizarre-chinese-artist-sports-his-own-rib-as-a-necklace/15286165#sthash.qEGYoRBY.dpuf
He Yunchang  wearing the necklace he made during his project ‘One Rib’; (above) He, who is battered with scars from top to toe, is seen here (right) in a snapshot taken on April 18, 2014, with his mother, who is wearing the necklace, in his studio in Beijing. Pics/AFP - See more at: http://www.mid-day.com/articles/bizarre-chinese-artist-sports-his-own-rib-as-a-necklace/15286165#sthash.qEGYoRBY.dpuf
He's still photos, paintings and sculptures have been exhibited and sold across Europe and America. Their popularity derives from his drastic performances, often almost as excruciating for his audiences to watch as they are agonizing for him. 

“He Yunchang is an alchemist of pain,” said Judith Neilson, founder of the White Rabbit Gallery in Sydney, Australia which specializes in contemporary Chinese art. 

"He Yunchang evidently believes that pain and extreme discomfort, deliberately planned and willingly undergone, have a transcendent quality – and that it is this quality that raises mere action to the level of art," she said. 

His performances "serve as silent rebukes to contemporary Chinese society, where people undergo all kinds of suffering for money precisely because they see money as the ultimate protection against suffering".

No comments: