Crazy Artist of the Month: He Yunchang

Warning: Graphic Images Below

Here at The Public House of Art, we want to honour not the ‘crazy’ acts that permeate everyday life, but to pay tribute to an artist, whose performances eclipse ‘crazy’ labels brought about by social conventions. The Chinese artist, He Yunchang (b. 1967) expresses the disciplined effort it takes to truly embody individual freedom and self-cultivation of the body.

Yunchang is perhaps one of the most extreme performance artists to physically test the limits that quantify what art is. He goes beyond the art gallery to seize the world as part of his performances. His methods are rooted in Daoist philosophy, “fish swim in the water, birds fly in the sky, and plants grow in the wind; they are expressing with their bodies.” Yunchang is relinquishing his body, solely in the name of art, elevating his practice as a form of meditative journey that supports the duration of his creative exercises.

For his 1999 piece, Dialogue With Water, the artist had a local butcher cut two, single centimetre incisions into his upper arms. Yunchang dangled upside down above the Liang River and using the butcher’s same knife he cuts into the water. For 30 minutes, blood flows from his wounds into the river, transfusing and mixing with the current to produce a ‘cut’ of 4,500 metres in the length of the river. The artist challenges not only social strictures, but also physical and mental barriers that typically define or comprise our humanity.

Typical, guttural reactions tend to churn towards, “How is this art? This guy is simply out of his fucking mind!” But hey, when did you ever hear, ‘art is an easy thing’? NEVER.

Yunchang’s work wants to make you squint, claw and plead for it to stop; however, persistence is key. A cerebral exercise is all it has to be; as he subconsciously bestows more power unto ourselves than we accredit through boundary-pushing acts. Other such intense projects have included staring at 10,000 watt bulbs to affect his eyesight, along with painting the nails and toenails of 10 mannequins with his own blood.

In 2010, his piece, One Metre Democracy had him gather 25 people for a poll on whether he should endure a laceration from his collarbone down to his knee without anesthetics. The idea was marginally approved. This performative piece documenting the tension before the incision imperatively represents the individual and the state in China. After, voters posed for a group photo whilst Yunchang lay naked and bloodied. The photograph as end result to this performance is a resounding satire; I wonder if the voters tried to sell this art online?

Yunchang places his body as the invariable within a context that is often deeply rooted in China’s complex society. He uses his body to address this system because “historically Chinese people have not endowed the physical body with value, rather they have valued the spirit of the Chinese people, as a collective.”

For his performance piece, One Rib, the artist employs a ‘crazy’ level of catharsis. The piece embodies a sense of poetry by implementing the idea of creation in its concept. The transformative element of the piece, having one rib extracted to be turned into a necklace purely in the name of art, connotes semiotics of religion, in which Eve is created from Adam’s rib. The physical object that this performative exercise yields is referential to its displacement and genesis as something new; it would be ‘crazy’ to call this affordable art.

Beauty moves in performance art, whether violent or quiet, ‘actions speak louder than words.’ Where there is performance there is an intangible experience. These works capitalise on intimacy to impart a customised experience for the viewer present.

However, customised experiences is the foundation of The Public House of Art. We expand our minds beyond the walls of the white cube to sell you affordable art online in four sizes and four prices. Experience art that is not only tangible, but art that serves to disrupt and impact an ever-lasting experience to whatever domain it inhabits.



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