Graveyard Shift

Freaky and Disturbing Performance Art Pieces  

Laura Allan
8.2k views 13 items

"What the heck did I just watch?" If you've seen any freaky performance art pieces, whether at a world-famous art museum or a hole-in-the-wall gallery, you've probably said that at least once in your life. From nudity to the overuse of bodily fluids, some performance art bridges the gap between expression and gratuitousness. Of course, to each their own as far as what you find artistically significant and impactful, but you really have to admit that some performance art leaves you with more questions than answers. 

Contrary to popular belief, weird art performances isn't a modern concept. Really disturbing or confusing art pieces have been put on for hundreds of years, with some truly famous examples cropping up during the Vietnam War. So, before you go blaming all these crazy kids and their idea of what "art" should be, keep in mind that this is hardly a new fad.

We should warn you, however, that there are some pictures and video in this article that are graphic in nature. Read and watch at your own risk, and we wish you luck in trying to figure out the deeper meaning these artists are getting at.

1 Girl, 1 Can Of Spaghetti-Os
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Video: YouTube

While many items on this list are by famous performance artists, this one was more of a viral YouTube sensation, and you'll soon understand why. In 2010, a young woman named Natacha Stolz performed a piece called "Interior Semiotics." The piece entails her rubbing dirt and Spaghetti-Os all over her body, reciting a poem, then pushing dirt and canned pasta into her vaginal cavity, before urinating into the can and using her shirt to clean it up. It was supposed to be an homage to Carolee Schneemann's Interior Scroll, but that's a little hard to tell. 

The audience reactions, absurdity, and grossness of the whole thing made it an Internet legend. The video now has over 2.8 million views on YouTube and climbing. 

A Man In A Crawlspace Gets Intimate With You
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Video: YouTube

In January 1972, the artist Vito Acconci performed his piece "Seedbed." He climbed into a small slanted room, barely large enough for him to lie down. Then, when people came into the room, with him hidden below the boards, he began to perform self-service to the sounds of people moving around him. What's weirder is that he narrated the entire time, explaining what he imagined doing with these strangers in the room around him, and broadcasted it into the room for them all to hear.

The idea was to create what The MET describes as an "intimate connection between artist and audience," even though the two couldn't see each other. 

Acrobatic Exploration With Risqué Props
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Video: YouTube

If you're up for watching this, take a deep breath, strap in and get ready to see some honestly distressing body imagery. Even the actors' faces are genuinely distressing. On June 18, 2005, Marie Chouinard created a piece called "Body Remix/Goldberg Variations," which involved scantily-clad people walking about on stage making odd noises and moving their bodies either languidly or vigorously. Many used crutches, either as a help or hindrance. 

It was meant as an exploration of freedom and movement. The audience's laughter at various points shows that even the arthouse crowd couldn't take this completely seriously (and one wonders if the performance wasn't intentionally humorous at times, especially where the guy with the clanging rod phallus is concerned). No matter your take on the piece, it does takes some serious skill and strength to do some of these moves. 

Yoko Ono Gets Cut
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Video: YouTube

This is one of the more famous pieces out there, not necessarily for its impactful meaning, but for the person who orchestrated it. On July 20, 1964, Yoko Ono walked up on stage at the Yamaichi Concert Hall in Kyoto, and sat down wearing all black. She then invited the audience to come forward and cut the clothing off of her body as they pleased. She sat passively the whole time as she was eventually stripped bare. One young man even cut the straps to her bra.

Titled "Cut Piece," the performance challenged the relationship between art and audience and genuinely shocked the art world. It also led the way to many of the other audience-participation pieces on this list, and more or less launched Ono's career.