Body art  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Body art is art made on, with, or consisting of, the human body. The most common forms of body art are tattoos and body piercings.

Body art as modern an contemporary art practice can involve things such as mutilation or pushing the body to its physical limits. For example, one of Marina Abramovic's works involved dancing until she collapsed from exhaustion, while one of Dennis Oppenheim's better-known works saw him lying in the sunlight with a book on his chest, until his skin, excluding that covered by the book, was badly sunburned. It can even consist of the arrangement and dissection of preserved bodies in an artistic fashion, as in the case of the plastinated bodies used in the travelling Body Worlds exhibit.

In Western art, body art appears to be a sub-category of performance art, in which artists use or abuse their own body to make their particular statements.

In more recent times, body became a subject of much broader discussions and treatments that cannot be reduced to the body art in its common understanding. Important strategies that question the human body are: implants, body in symbiosis with the new technologies, virtual body etc. A special case of the body art strategies is the absence of body. The most important artists that performed the "absence" of body through their artworks were: Keith Arnatt, Andy Warhol, Anthony Gormley and Davor Džalto.

Examples of body art

Vito Acconci once documented, through photos and text, his daily exercise routine of stepping on and off a chair for as long as possible over several months. Acconci also performed a 'Following Piece', in which he followed randomly chosen New Yorkers.

Chris Burden actually had an assistant shoot him in the arm in his piece ‘Shoot’ (1971), which was observed by a live audience. This was documented in an eight-second video and is a notorious example of video art as well as performance art. In ‘Through the Night Softly' (1973), Burden crawled naked through broken glass, which he saw as stars in the sky, and turned the video footage into a ten-second commercial that was aired on television. In ‘Locker’, he spent five days jammed into a 2' x 2' x 3' locker at UCLA; in ‘Sculpture in Three Parts’ (1974), he sat on an upright chair on a sculpture pedestal for 48 hours, until he fell off due to exhaustion; in ‘White Light/White Heat’ (1975), he spent 22 days alone and invisible to the public on a high platform in a gallery, neither eating, speaking, seeing or being seen. Most of these performances are known only through photographs or short video clips.

The Vienna Action Group was formed in 1965 by Herman Nitsch, Otto Muhl, Gunter Brus and Rudolf Schwartzkogler. They performed several body art actions, usually involving social taboos (such as genital mutilation).

Marina Abramovic performed Rhythm 0 in 1974. In the piece, the audience was given instructions to use on Abramovic's body an array of 72 provided instruments of pain and pleasure, including knives, feathers, and a loaded pistol. Audience members cut her, pressed thorns into her belly, put lipstick on her, and removed her clothers. The performance ended after six hours when someone held the loaded gun up to Abramovic's head and a scuffle broke out.

The movement gradually evolved to the works more directed in the personal mythologies, as at Jana Sterbak, Rebecca Horn, Youri Messen-Jaschin or Javier Perez.


Guatemalan artist Regina José Galindo have used body art to protest against political oppression and violence against women.

List of works

See also




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Body art" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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