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Gross!: Bodily Fluids in Art

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“My Shit is Better Than Yours." Mauro Peruccetti, 2010. (Turds made of Swarovski crystals!)

Art will always be a medium of self-expression and experimentation. During the last century or so, people were especially keen to the idea you can make art out of anything. This was around the time of dudes like Marcel Duchamp who could pass off a urinal as a super important sculpture.

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”Fountain.“ Marcel Duchamp, 1917.

In that case, who’s to say you can’t pass urine off as paint?? Such wet ‘n wild thoughts were entertained by certain sagely thinkers (discussed below) who REALLY expressed themselves. Yup. We’re looking at people who used all manner of bodily substances to make groundbreaking, gross, and sometimes really pretty art.

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”Paysage Fautif (Faulty Landscape).“ Marcel Duchamp, 1946.

First off, there’s the life-giving substance often sacrificed at the altar of self-pleasure. And who but art world rebel Marcel Duchamp could preserve his splat of little swimmers onto a piece of canvas? You may have heard of Vincent van Gogh gifting part of his ear to a lady, but that might have seemed a bit too gruesome for Duchamp.  He made Paysage Fautif  (which loosely translates to faulty or offending landscape) in 1946 for Brazilian diplomat’s wife, Maria Martins, who loved to schmooze with the artsy crowd.

This splatter of spooge is so layered in terms of meaning! A kind of readymade self-portrait, it shows us Duchamp as the trickster, the lover, the guru of conceptual art and a man who simply enjoys playing with himself. Only in the 1980’s was it confirmed that the landscape of liquid love did indeed come from Duchamp’s own private store of semen.

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Oxidation Painting (In 12 Parts). Andy Warhol, 1978.

In a similar vein (stuff that can come out of a pee-pee), let’s look at Andy Warhol’s Oxidation Paintings. A series of 12 “paintings” – using the term painting veeery loosely here – these seem to be harmless splashes of metallic paint. Quite pretty, actually, if you don’t know what you’re looking at.

However, all innocent ideals are shattered once you find out that Warhol actually paid friends and his own assistant to pee on painted canvases so the uric acid would oxidize the paint, creating this neat abstract effect. His assistant, Ronnie Cutrone, would down a lot of Vitamin B, which made for an even more, eh… unusual color spectrum.

Warhol may have been making a sly comment on the drippy, gestural style of peeps like Jackson Pollock through these personalized piss portraits. Who needs paint when you have your own reserve of golden showers? Kids, DO try this at home – whip it out and whiz away!

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Merda d'Artista. Piero Manzoni, 1961.

And in case you haven’t completely lost your appetite yet, here’s a whole new can of worms: Piero Manzoni’s famous canned goods aka Merda d’ Artista. Don’t you love how European languages make even phrases like “artist’s shit” sound sexy? Egad! I may have unearthed a fetish…

ANYWAYS, getting back to these colon cleansers – they may be full of crap, but you’ll never see anything in the canned good aisle that’s worth as much as these babies. No one buys tinned tuna for $160,000, but a can of poop? Sold! Although, like Duchamp’s jizz, the contents of these cans were also a mystery to the public for a while. That is until 1994, when one of them started leaking at an exhibit. The old saying, “Art is shit,” was undoubtedly confirmed.

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 Self. Marc Quinn, 2006.

We’ve pretty much established that self-portraiture is the common thread between all of these guys and their respective juices, but Marc Quinn’s Self is a little more obvious in terms of its formal appearance. Though just as far out with regards to medium. Quinn decided to drain a few pints of his own blood over a period (lawlz) of time and fill up a bust of his very own with it. Now that’s a legit selfie.

And every few years, he goes through the whole rigmarole all over again, as this is an ongoing project. So you’re going to see pretty much a lifetime’s worth of frozen bloody Quinns before anemia gets him. Quinn’s Self has been defined by himself as a “frozen moment on life-support” i.e. the refrigerator is the crucial element in keeping the portrait from becoming a gallery that forgot to wear a tampon (ew, mental image).

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Ingrid Berthon-Moine puts period blood to good use in her portrait series Red is The Color. And you thought they were wearing lipstick…

So, next time you get an assignment to do a self-portrait or even if you’re about to stick out your arm and Instagram your mug, do consider: would this picture be a million times more meaningful if I ejaculated, urinated, defecated OR bled on it? Will it really and truly be considered art?

Do it for the right reasons though. Because these artists have helped us understand there’s more to your own juices than you think. Allow your bodily fluid and/or solid to add aesthetic dimension, depth and layers of meaning to your work. Don’t just do it cause you couldn’t find a place to pee…

By Saher Sohail

Saher Sohail

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