What is it I’m looking at? A naked man with a wig in a bathtub. He moves around the bath while applying various nasty organic substances to his naked flesh. He begins to stuff his own mouth with raw meat and tries to eat it, but gags. I taste a bit of stomach acid in my mouth, but it feels good, how his filthy video performance affects my senses.
I first saw Paul McCarthy’s work 10 years ago in Stockholm. I was only a teenager and I became quickly attracted and fascinated by his ways showing me a world of taboo. The biggest reason was maybe because of my father’s reaction, which was not positive. He decided to leave the gallery fast. But I
stayed for hours.
Paul McCarthy is a contemporary artist based in California. He is known for his provocative art, where he merges perverse sexuality with innocent things such as the universe of Disney. McCarthy’s works include performance, installation, film and painting as action. He is a critical analyst of the mass media and consumer-driven American society and its hypocrisy, double standards and repression. On the other hand, it is European avant-garde art that has had the most influence on his artistic form language.
He started his career in the 60s, and in his early works he used his own body as a pencil. Painting with different kinds of food and body fluids. In 1976 he made a performance called “Class Fool”. It involved throwing himself around in ketchup in a classroom at the University of California until he almost passed out. He started to vomit all over himself and a Barbie doll was stocked inside his rectum. It was too much for the audience and the performance had to end. Through most of McCarthy’s work he uses holes, holes of the human body or him digging or drilling in dirt ect.
“Holes are access from one space to another, outside to inside, inside to outside, inside to inside. Round and square holes, body holes and architecture holes, mouth, ears, eye sockets, rectum, vagina, penis hole, front door, back door, windows. Holes are also openings to sleeves, deposit chambers and pockets. Donuts and rods, as sexual mechanisms, rub devices. Drilling holes, making a hole with a drill bit. It’s about sex and confusion.” – Paul McCarthy, The Guardian 2003
In McCarthy’s latest work he still manages to provoke. In Paris 2014, McCarthy began installing the green big plastic sculpture called ”tree” at the Place Vendôme. Depending on who you asked, it looked like a Christmas tree or a big butt plug. Especially one local thought of the last. He went up in McCarthy’s face and punched him while loudly saying that this didn’t belong in the city. This is why I like his work. It wasn’t McCarthy himself directly telling us it was a big butt plug, it was the viewers own vulgar minds.
“It would be hard for me to say that being the prankster or provocateur isn’t part of the work, But when I made the big ‘Tree’ in France, I really did want to make it. An 80-foot inflatable was something I wanted to see —something about that object at that scale excited me. And it’s this monotone green. It’s like, What is that shape? Is it a tree? An abstract object?” Paul McCarthy, LA-Times 2014.