Opinion

Chinese Artist Bleeds For Democracy [NSFW]

A view of performance artist He Yunchang (Ah Chang) performing "One Meter Democracy" (2010) (photo via melanieinbeijing.blog.sohu.com)

Chinese blogger and art consultant Mélanie Wang has a report — with graphic photos — of an October 10th performance by artist He Yunchang (A Chang) where he executed his new work “One Meter Democracy” (2010) at Cao Chang Di in Beijing.

Wang describes the performance and its premise:

At the beginning, he presented his proposal … he would cut a wound on the right side of his body all the way from the clavicle down to below his knee; a wound one-meter long and 0.5-1cm deep. The whole process would be executed under the assistance of a medical doctor, yet without anesthesia.

Before the execution of this operation, there was a pseudo-democratic voting procedure. According to the artist Ah Chang [sic], the vote was under the guise of a democratic process to decide whether he was going to perform his work or not … the result was 12 votes in favor of the work and 10 against, with 3 abstentions.

Ah Chang bleeding after the cut was created. (image via melanieinbeijing.blog.sohu.com)

The gruesome work has its precedents in the performance art of the 1960s and 70s, and there is even a book that explores the notion of cutting or collage in performance as a Feminist device. Here the meaning is vastly different. By ascribing democratic undertones to the action, the artist pulls into question the very logic of choice and the value of democracy to the individual. He also appears to use the metaphor of the body as an arena for public control, which has universal meaning as governments the world over exert daily control over people’s bodies through reproductive laws, medical regulation, capital punishment, and other laws.

Wang offers her own analysis:

Is this the price for Democracy? Probably yes.

Click here for the photos which are NSFW.

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