By BARRY GEWEN
Published: December 11, 2005
IN 1974, Chris Burden had himself crucified on the roof of a Volkswagen. He was creating a work of art. A decade later, Hermann Nitsch staged a three-day performance in which participants disemboweled bulls and sheep and stomped around in vats, mixing the blood and entrails with grapes. Another work of art. Rafael Ortiz cut off a chicken's head and beat the carcass against a guitar. Ana Mendieta, who had a retrospective at the Whitney last year, also decapitated a chicken and let its blood spurt over her naked body. As one commentator has observed: "animals are not safe in the art world." Neither are the artists. They have sliced themselves with razor blades, inserted needles in their scalps, rolled naked over glass splinters, had themselves suspended by meathooks and undergone surgical "performance operations" during which spectators could carry on conversations with the artist-patient.
Has the art world gone crazy? Don't ask. Anyone interested in learning just how crazy can find many of the most extreme artworks created over the last 40 years - which include everything from public cervical inspections to necrophilia - described in Tracey Warr and Amelia Jones's remarkable volume, "The Artist's Body."