We celebrate the men and women putting blood, sweat and tears into their art – literally
The truth is that some artists really do live for their art: some give everything, dedicating their existence to transcendent creation. There are also times when offering blood, sweat and tears to achieve that art is taken a bit too literally – think back to Piero Manzoni, who was able to sell 90 cans of his own excrement for their equivalent weight in gold, or Andres Serrano’s "Piss Christ", a photograph that depicts a crucified figure in a jar of the artist’s own urine. Since then, we’ve had plenty of excretion art: Tracey Emin’s "My Bed" and its stained sheets; Millie Brown, the vomit-artist who threw up on Lady Gaga; and of course, James Franco’s homoerotic Batman semen. Many argue that this niche material doesn’t even constitute art, and that these aren’t real artists, but one thing’s for sure, you can’t say they’re full of it. Here are ten of the best.
VENUS IN SHITS
Chinese sculptor Zhu Cheng decided that the best way to pay homage to the ancient Greek statue "Venus de Milo", which dates back over two millennia, would be to replicate it with panda poo. Sold for £30,000, the 24-inch statue was a visual juxtaposition of the panda's gracefulness and the enormous amount of waste the animals produce.
For the collaborative record The Flaming Lips and Heady Fwends, Wayne Coyne and co. took things a step further by actually adding blood to the mix for ten limited-edition copies for Record Store Day 2012. Contributors included Nick Cave, Erykah Badu, Ke$ha, Chris Martin and more.
THE TOPOGRAPHY OF TEARS
Intended to be a study of different tears, after a period of profound personal change, artist Rose-Lynn Fisher photographed a selection of 100 dried tears through a standard light microscope. Fisher claims that each tear type varies: some are due to frustration, sorrow, rejection, laughing, yawning, and even onions.
IRON MAN URINE
One day whilst Taiwanese art student Wong Tin Cheung was going to the toilet, he looked down in horror to see blood in his urine. But, emotions soon turned to surprise, when he released that the mix of yellow and red had formed a doppelgänger of superhero Iron Man in the toilet bowl. A huge fan of Marvel comics, Cheung replicated the scene, titled "Golden Avenger", for an art prize competition, and won.
After realising that every piece of glass work made at a Swedish glass factory he visited contained a bit of sweat from its creator, New York artist Daniel Peltz came up with the idea of making a sweat perfume. Over time, he collected the glassblowers’ sweat. “To me the creation of Eau de Reijmyre was a logical step; it felt like something that should be on sale in the store, alongside the other products of their labour,” he explained. It supposedly has a complex scent with hints of musk, salt, and sugar.
The relationship between art and new technology keeps on growing in strange ways. In exchange for a mouth full of spit and some bundles of cash, you can now purchase a giant 40” x 40” QR code poster that represents your maternal lineage. They are available in a pleasing range of pastels. Get swabbing.
Marc Quinn makes self-portraits using nine pints of his own, frozen blood. His idea is inspired by Rembrandt’s self-portraits, and Quinn intends to make one every five years. Entitled Self, the blood sculptures require him to visit the doctor every six weeks to have blood taken out. One was bought up by the Saatchi gallery, but began to melt after it was rumoured Nigella Lawson accidentally turned the refrigerator off.
Art student Marc Bradley Johnson’s piece "Take This Sperm and Be Free of Me" involved displaying 68 vials of his semen in a fridge at Manhattan’s Visual Arts Gallery, and inviting visitors to take one home. He suggested that the vials represented “creation, parenting, desire, masculinity, fantasy, and reality”, but his art school intervened, forcing him to seal the fridge and cover them up in a box labelled “bio-hazardous waste”.
EAR WAX JEWELS
Also known for her use of maggots and placenta, Amanda Cotton creates necklaces that use compressions of her ear wax as a “jewel”. She connects these many jewels with chains of her own, plaited hair. Supposedly, the necklace allows you to wear your “own waste materials on display in an aesthetically pleasing manner”.
In their artistic statement about their project Selfmade, scientist Christina Agapakis and scent-expert Sissel Tolaas say that they want to draw attention to the importance and potential of bacteria, and to overcome a cultural fear of micro-organisms. They make cheeses from human bacteria, taking from feet, armpits, and even curator Hans Ulrich Obrist’s nose.