Last updated: June 13, 2019
Topic: ArtTheatre
Sample donated:

Investigate the work of artists who have used human parts or bodily fluids, such as hair, blood or urine, in their work. Artists who have used these in their work include artists such as Wenda Gu, Julie Rrap, Andres Serrano, Marc Quinn and Mee Ping Leung. Wenda Gu has used both human parts and bodily fluids in his work. He uses genetic materials such as hair and powdered human placenta to refer directly to the individual as he wants to be involved with the audience and society. Gu uses hair to illustrate the cultural identity of a country.

For example, for his Australian installation he used different colour hair to refer to the nature of Australia’s racial mix. Julie Rrap has used human parts in her work to challenge how the body has been represented. For example, in ‘Vital Statistics’, Rrap presents traces of her own body in rubber moulds that carry impressions of her skin and hair. Andres Serrano has used bodily fluids in his work. Many of Serrano’s pictures involve bodily fluids in some way- depicting, for example, blood (sometimes menstrual blood), semen (for example, “Blood and Semen II” (1990)) or human female breast milk.

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He has made a number of works in which objects are submerged in bodily fluids. Most famous of these is “Piss Christ” (1987), a photograph of a plastic crucifix submerged in a glass of his own urine. More recent work of Serrano’s uses faeces as a medium. Marc Quinn has used blood in his work. Quinn’s self portrait ‘Self’ is his signature piece in the art world. A frozen sculpture of the artist’s head made from 4. 5 litres of his own blood, taken from his body over a period of 5 months. This he first did in his late 20s in 1991 and continues to do it every 5 years to document his own physical transformation and deterioration.

Mee Ping Leung has used hair in her work. Leung Mee-ping began producing the installation work, “Memorise the Future”, in 1998. She collected hair from more than 10,000 people through hair salons, the Internet, street garbage cans in the US and by placing advertisements in a friend’s restaurant. The owners of these hair strands are from more than 100 countries and belong to different geographical regions, races, age groups and sexes. Leung mixed, reconstructed, kneaded and wove the hair into thousands of child-sized hair shoes. The 3,000 little shoes were placed in a pure white space.

Hair detached from its host body symbolises “memories”, while the children’s shoes pointing in the same direction represent the “future”. “Memorise the Future” contains a message that merges the beginning and the end of life, indicating a strong sense of contradiction. A relatively new trend in contemporary art is to use body fluids in art. Examples include: ‘Artist’s Shit’ (1961), by Piero Manzoni in which the artist canned and sold 90 cans of his own excrement to be sold for their weight in gold; Many paintings by Chris Ofili make use of elephant dung (from 1992).

Gilbert and George’s ‘The Naked Shit Pictures’ (1995) Marcel Duchamp used semen decades ago. Lennie Lee’s performances from 1990 have involved faeces, blood and vomit. Hermann Nitsch and Das Orgien Mysterien Theatre use urine, faeces, blood and more in their ritual performances. Franko B from 1990 has used blood in his performances. All of these artists have used human parts or bodily fluids in their work to communicate their ideas to their audiences. These materials can be used to create strong and powerful messages in their artworks. They can be symbolic and represent concepts such as identity and culture.