ByKarly Rayner, writer at
Movie Pilot's celebrity savant
Karly Rayner

The contemporary art world is often seen as a barren wasteland of surgical white spaces filled with incomprehensible abstract forms and achingly pretentious descriptions, but it can be so much darker than that.

Artists are continually pushing boundaries and if it was legal to delve to Human Centipede levels of depravity, I can almost guarantee somebody in the art business would have totally gone there already.

Don't believe me? Below is a small selection of the most gruesome contemporary artworks ever created and, trust me, there are plenty more where these came from...

Mark Quinn - 'Self'

British artist Mark Quinn's 'Self' is made of 4.5 pints of the artist's own blood frozen into a cast of his head. Quinn describes the blood head as a "frozen moment on lifesupport" to remind viewers of the fragility of existence.

Quinn makes a new blood head every five years which documents his own physical deterioration as he ages.

Hermann Nitsch - 'Orgien Mysterien Theater'

Austrian artist Hermann Nitsch is best known for his macabre and ritualistic performance pieces entitled 'Orgien Mysterien Theater.'

In these bloody shows, animal carcasses are ritualistically crucified, figures in white bathe in blood, and religious iconography is often referenced.

Unsurprisingly, Nitsch has been attacked for being blasphemous, but he claims that growing up during WWII gave him a "fascination with the intensity of religious feelings for life."

Orlan - 'Untitled'

The French performance artist, Orlan undergoes extreme plastic surgery procedures while she is still awake. The surgeons are often dressed in costumes and the operating theater itself is extensively decorated, giving it a more ritualistic feel.

Orlan has had operations to resemble various women in classical paintings to challenge the ever changing nature of what is considered aesthetically pleasing when it comes to a woman's face. She has also had extreme facial implants to channel the strange face shapes of tribal carvings.

Franco B - 'I Miss You'

Franco B's performance piece entitled 'I Miss You' took place in the Tate Modern in 2003 and the piece best described by someone who was actually there to see it. Art critic Jennifer Doyle wrote that:

In this piece, naked, covered in white body paint, Franko walks down a long canvas aisle. He is lit up on either side from the floor by florescent tubes, and bleeds from calendulas in his arms that hold his veins open as he slowly and ceremoniously walks the length of the canvas towards a bank of photographers at its base. Blood pools at his feet at each end of the “catwalk,” where he stands before turning around and beginning his march again. The performance is structured to resemble a fashion show, and the blood splattered canvas Franko leaves in his wake is used to make unwearable, or at least, un-marketable haute-couture.

Mao Sugiyama - 'Untitled'

Mao Sugiyama was an asexual (someone who has no desire to have sexual relationships) artist who had his genitals electively removed, but what he did afterward was even more eye-watering.

Instead of throwing his severed penis and scrotum into the surgical waste bin, he decided to throw a banquet where wannabe cannibals could eat them for around $1,200.

Shockingly, five people signed up to eat the genitals (braised and served with mushroom sauce if you're interested) making this a pretty bizarre social experiment about the dark side of human nature.

There is no law against cannibalism in Japan (in fact, there isn't in a lot of countries because of its rarity) so this entire macabre banquet was entirely legal.

Chris Burden - 'Shoot'

In 1971 American artist Chris Burden was voluntarily shot through the left arm with a .22 rifle from a distance of five meters in front of a live audience.

The controversial piece was very much of its time and it was derived to question the Vietnam War and the political assassinations of the 1960s. 'Shoot' is all about the terrifying realization that anyone could be shot at any time - and chances are it will be by a familiar person.

Sebastian Horsely - 'Untitled'

In 2000 Sebastian Horsely travelled to the Philippines to experience the excruciating pain of crucifixion first hand to help him inject the raw emotion into his paintings.

He was nailed through the hands after refusing anesthetic and passed out from the pain. When the cross was hoisted upright, the platform for Horsley's feet broke and he narrowly escaped serious injury after being caught by onlookers.

Being crucified on Good Friday to empathize with the pain of Christ is common in some devout Catholic countries and this act is not seen as blasphemous.


Do you think these art works are more gruesome than a lot of horror movies?


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