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An Icelandic artist is requesting that people lend him their dead bodies for art (photo by Gulli Mar via Snorri Asmundsson/Facebook)

When a person dies, his loved ones typically deliver the body to a morgue before it reaches the final destination; Icelandic artist Snorri Ásmundsson is requesting that someone take a detour on that route to participate in his art. As Iceland Review reported, Ásmundsson is seeking corpses to use in his next piece and has posted an open call on his Facebook page for donors.

“Looking for dead bodies in the name of the art,” Ásmundsson wrote. “I need a corpse for a video installation. If you are dying I would like to borrow your remains after you die. The body will be returned to the undertaker in the ‘same’ condition. Sincerely Snorri Ásmundsson.”

The work, Ásmundsson told Hyperallergic, will involve the artist dancing with the body as soon as possible after the person’s death to raise “a number of intrusive questions,” and he intends for the performance to last no longer than an hour before he returns the corpse. The project actually dates to 2008, but Ásmundsson had to “put it on ice” due to the financial collapse.

“Around the collapse people got extra emotional, and I decided to wait and put the project on hold for a while,” he said. He revived his call on Facebook this week and has yet to secure a fitting candidate, although a number of people have already contacted him and promised to lend him their bodies when they die. But none are dying soon, and Ásmundsson has had to decline their offers. One terminally ill Icelandic man, suffering from an autoimmune disease, had reached out to volunteer his body; the agreement fell through, however, when he unexpectedly recovered (he attributes the miracle to his decision to participate in Ásmundsson’s project).

Willing participation in the work is vital to Ásmundsson, who told the local paper Morgunblaðið that his art is meant as a “collaboration.”

“You can go to China or Mexico and buy a body, but I have no interest in that,” he said. “I’m not that kind of morally corrupt. I want to do this piece in collaboration with the dead, not in the least out of respect for him and his family.”

The world’s only surviving Necropants is in the Museum of Icelandic Sorcery and Witchcraft in Hólmavík, Iceland (photo by Bernard McManus)

No stranger to controversy, the artist has naturally received criticism for his work, with some suspecting him of using the body for other indecent purposes. “Many people misunderstand and judge me and this project too soon, and some are very angry and feel abusive of this idea,” Ásmundsson told Hyperallergic. “But I think they possibly think I am going to do something really disgusting instead of seeing the beauty in this piece. I believe that one day I will find the right candidate, and we will accomplish to make this piece in unforgettable way.”

There must be something in that clean Icelandic spring water as Ásmundsson is not the first in his nation to ask for bodies to use in a performance. We were reminded of the world’s most macabre pair of pants, the Necropants (“nábrók,” in the local tongue). Made from human skin — with consent from its owner when he or she was still alive —the 400-year-old pants were used in an intense ritual. Atlas Obscura, who has the full story, relates:

For starters the sorcerer must make a pact with a friend that he can skin the friend’s body from the waist down after the friend dies of natural causes. Once the friend is dead, the greedy magician must then wait until the friend has been buried, dig up the body and then skin the lower half of the corpse without creating any holes or tears. Once the “necropants” have been created, the caster must don the purloined pantaloons against their bare skin.

The ritual continues with the sorcerer placing a coin in the scrotal sack and inscribing it with a symbol, which causes the scrotum to fill with coins forever.

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Claire Voon

Claire Voon is a former staff writer for Hyperallergic. Originally from Singapore, she grew up near Washington, D.C. and is now based in Chicago. Her work has also appeared in New York Magazine, VICE,...

3 replies on “Wanted: One Corpse for Art”

  1. It is disgusting. And probably against the health laws – for a reason. If this is what art has come to it needs a revival of some sort.

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