There is a common idea that artists must suffer for their art, at least for the artwork to be truly impactful. This notion is perhaps especially true with performance art, where sometimes the artist doesn’t just suffer but may even actually die. Here is some truly shocking performance art that went too far, cost the artist their life or is otherwise extremely distasteful.
We’re not saying that we agree or disagree with this artwork, but certainly think that everything on this list deserves a special mention.
Dying For Your Craft
In 1975 an artist named Bas Jan Ader put on a performance artwork he called In Search Of The Miraculous. Part of his performance showcased several scenes taken in Los Angeles, all intentionally bland, lifeless and drab. Then, as the finale to his performance, he set off sailing in a small boat, claiming that he was going to seek the miraculous elsewhere.
But sailing the open sea isn’t easy, something that Ader clearly didn’t think about. His sailing boat was found empty on the coast of Ireland, making him another art casualty. Chances are that he either fell overboard and drowned or died of hunger or thirst.
Shot For Your Craft
The 60s and 70s were a time of social unrest in the United States, with protests either peaceful or violent. In some cases, however, the protests were a little of both. In 1971 artist Chris Burden went to extremes to protest the Vietnam War, getting shot for the camera. The video, still available online, shows him standing still while a friend shoots him in the arm. The bloody video isn’t a particularly comfortable watch, though that is likely the point.
Burden also got nailed to a car as a means of protest, though thankfully that video isn’t available.
A Whole New Level
Next time you’re relaxing and enjoying internet-based pastimes like online casino games, don’t look into artist Vito Acconci. At least, don’t unless you want to become instantly paranoid. His infamous 70s-era art is all about conjuring paranoia, and he certainly found success. In his performance art piece Seedbed he hid under the floor of the New York art gallery and whispered obscenities as they walked overhead.
According to him, the performance was in protest to the paranoia of the Nixon era. Most of the visitors simply felt he was repulsive, rude and idiotic. Again, that might have been the point, especially since no one knew what he was doing under the floor.
Disfigurement For Art
Our last artist is so controversial that many consider her to have crossed a line in the name of art. The project, coming to a close in 1993, is The Reincarnation Of Saint Orlan. The artist Orlan set about making alterations to her appearance, apparently in an attempt to achieve an ideal of female beauty. With the famous Venus and Mona Lisa as references, surgeons reconstructed Orlan’s face and body to match those of the artworks.
Orlan claims to have made a statement about female beauty, but some critics insist she is simply desperate for attention.