Chinese artist He Yunchang believes in suffering for his art…

He-Yunchang-croppedChinese artist He Yunchang believes in suffering for his art. His performance pieces have included:

  • Having one of his ribs removed so that he could wear it as a necklace.
  • Having a doctor cut a one meter gash down the side of his body, without anesthesia.
  • Encasing himself in a cube of quick-setting concrete for 24 hours.
  • Trying to “cut a river in half” by suspending himself above it from a crane while holding a knife in the water, as blood dripped from cuts in his arms.
  • Painting the fingernails and toenails of 10 mannequins with his own blood.
  • Staring at 10,000 watt bulbs to damage his eyesight
  • Burning his clothes while wearing them.

Art critic Judith Neilson explains:

He Yunchang is an alchemist of pain… He Yunchang evidently believes that pain and extreme discomfort, deliberately planned and willingly undergone, have a transcendent quality — and that it is this quality that raises mere action to the level of art. [His performances] serve as silent rebukes to contemporary Chinese society, where people undergo all kinds of suffering for money precisely because they see money as the ultimate protection against suffering.



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