In strange art news this week, New York Magazine reports School of Visual Arts (SVA) MFA candidate Marc Bradley Johnson was recently prevented from debuting his final project entitled, "Take This Sperm and Be Free Of Me," consisting of a refrigerator full of 68 vials of his own semen.
"The really great thing about art school is the merit they place on ideas and pushing boundaries," Johnson told the Huffington Post in a phone interview. "The whole thing was so blown out or proportion. The school called my work a threat to homeland security."
After months of getting his creative juices flowing, Johnson displayed the vials of homemade semen in a refrigerator in SVA's Chelsea art gallery. He also advertised the fruits of his labor on Craigslist, offering vials of semen to strangers to explore themes of "creation, parenting, desire, masculinity, fantasy, and reality," according to a press release. (We have to ask, did this come straight out of a "Portlandia" sketch?)
Although faculty members approved the work in progress, when SVA administration caught wind of Johnson's sticky subject they reportedly expressed concerns regarding safety, New York Magazine reports. As a precaution, they ordered Johnson to kill the sperm by microwaving every single vial. "It's been the craziest week," Johnson admitted during his phone interview with The Huffington Post.
Yet even the microwaving incident didn't assuage the worries of SVA's director of environmental health and safety. "He said the semen is bio hazardous," Johnson said. "And it needs to be quarantined and destroyed." In his final art school venture, the artist told The Huffington Post in an email his semen vials will be sealed in a box labeled "bio hazardous waste" along with a memo reading "SVA sees the creative potential of the artist as a health hazard and deemed too unsafe to be taken by the public."
Although clearly frustrated at the project's change of course, the artist stumbled upon additional avenues to explore in his future ventures. "What does it all mean -- that I am a walking bio hazard dispensary?" He queried, "That every male is a walking bio danger as we go to do our laundry?"
The artist also expressed plans to continue the semen-centric work for the rest of his life. "I am interested in eventually finding a stranger to have a child with me," he said.
What do you think of the trials and tribulations of SVA's censored semen artist? Is masturbation a technique worth mastering or does this project cross the line? Share your thoughts in the comments.
UPDATE: We reached out to Michael Grant from SVA to comment on the matter, and he specifically clarified the sexual subject matter was not a factor in the decision to conceal the semen. "There seems to be an assumption, whether on the artist's part or others, that the sexual nature of his work was a consideration in the dialogue to display it," he said in a phone conversation. "That is not the case. In fact, I encourage people to see the show for themselves to understand that that's not the case."
See more shocking acts by artists in the slideshow below.
Piero Manzoni Poops In A Can
Italian artist Piero Manzoni created an unexpected work of art called "Artist's Shit" in 1961. How'd he do it? The brazen soul filled 90 cans with feces and sold them for auction at Sotheby's. Rumors circulated that Manzoni had not actually filled the cans with human feces, a rumor which was quickly quelled when one of the cans began leaking in a Denmark museum.
Marina Abramovic Plays with Knives
A slideshow of shocking artists wouldn't be complete without including at least one of Marina Abramovic's many startling and sometimes dangerous performance art pieces. In "Rhythm 10," the artist played a Russian game that involved rapidly jabbing knives between her outstretched fingers, switching between large and small blades when she accidentally sliced herself. She recorded her first run and then tried to mimic its exact movements in a second trial, even copying the sounds she made when she nicked her hand. Painful to watch, though we imagine by the size of the blades that "nicked" might have been an understatement.
Amanda Feilding and Wafaa Bilal Drill into their Skulls
British artist Amanda Feiding (who is now married and goes by the name of Charteris) once performed a trepanation on herself as part of a short art film entitled "<a href="http://www.artandpopularculture.com/Heartbeat_In_The_Brain" target="_hplink">Heartbeat in the Brain</a>." What's a trepanation? It's a procedure that involves drilling a hole into someone's skull. The skull boring continues. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/02/10/wafaa-bilal-body-rejects-head-camera_n_821271.html" target="_hplink">NYU professor Wafaa Bilal</a> implanted a camera into the back of his head as part of a surveillance art project called "The 3rd I." The extreme body modification eventually came to an end when his body physically rejected one of the titanium posts used to keep the device in place on his skull.
Chris Burden Gets Shot
Chris Burden probably deserves several slides, as he's shot at a 747 airplane, taken a bullet to the arm and been nailed to a volkswagen all in the name of art. Here is Burden's infamous "Shoot" from 1971, when he allowed an assistant to shoot him from a distance of 5 meters.
Voina and Tom Otterness Take their Art Out on Animals
Voina, the guerilla art group that graffitied a St. Petersburg bridge with a <a href="http://laughingsquid.com/russian-art-group-voina-paints-giant-penis-on-st-petersburg-drawbridge/" target="_hplink">giant penis</a>, once threw live cats at a McDonalds as part of a subversive performance that celebrated International Workers' Day. You can see a photo of the cats mid-air and likely terrified <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/2008/07/23/us-russia-art-idUSL1650947620080723" target="_hplink">here</a>. But the throwing of cats is not as bad as <a href="http://articles.nydailynews.com/2011-05-11/news/29547012_1_tom-otterness-sculptures-public-art-funds" target="_hplink">Tom Otterness</a>' decision to shoot an adopted dog in 1977, an act he later regretted. Come on guys, let's the leave the animals out of it. Photo: Members of Voina courtesy of Getty Images.
Marni Kotak Gives Birth in a Gallery
<a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/arts-post/post/live-birth-performance-artist-marni-kotak-delivers-healthy-baby-boy/2011/10/26/gIQAsUxoIM_blog.html" target="_hplink">Marni Kotak</a> stated that giving birth was the "highest form of art." And she wanted to make that art public. So she decided to give birth in a gallery in a performance called "The Birth of Baby X." We just hope that she didn't get too caught up in the performance and forget to pick a better name for her offspring.
Zhu Yu Allegedly Eats Fetuses
In "Eating People," Zhu Yu claimed to be cooking and eating a human fetus that he stole from a medical school. And later performances by the Chinese artist involved grafting his own skin onto a pig. All in all, Zhu Yu's entire body of work is pretty shocking.
Andres Serrano Taps into his Bodily Fluids
<a href="http://andresserrano.org/" target="_hplink">Andres Serrano</a> is the king of using bodily fluids to create art. He's sacrificed his own blood, urine and semen to make works like his super-controversial photograph of a crucifix submerged in urine titled "Piss Christ." Talk about blood, sweat and tears going into your work.
Franko B Bleeds on a Catwalk
Like Andres Serrano, <a href="http://www.franko-b.com/" target="_hplink">Franko B</a> was not afraid to shed some blood for his art. He was interested in the ritualization of his own body, so in 2002 he turned the Tate modern into a catwalk and strutted down the aisle while bloodletting in front of an audience.
Vito Acconci Gets Seedy Under a Gallery
This Bronx-born and Brooklyn-based artist got very, very comfortable at Sonnabend Gallery in 1971. For his "Seedbed" performance, he masturbated in a hidden compartment underneath the gallery and vocalized his sexual fantasies over a loudspeaker that gallery goers could hear. Like most of these shocking exhibits, we're just glad we we were not there to witness it.
Breyer P-Orridge Gets Extreme Cosmetic Surgery
<a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/obituaries/lady-jaye-breyer-porridge-397604.html" target="_hplink">Lady Jaye Breyer</a> and Genesis P-Orridge underwent a series of surgical procedures in order to look like each other, hoping to achieve a third being called Breyer P-Orridge. Their gender bending experiment was called pandrogyny and spurred several mixed-media exhibitions including "Painful But Fabulous."
BONUS SLIDE: Hermann Nitsch's 'Orgiastic Mystery Theater'
Equipped with animal carcases and spiritual iconography, Viennese "actionist" Hermann Nitsch organized bloody performances that played out like pagan rituals. For 30 years, he and his 'Orgiastic Mystery Theater' troupe carried out shocking art performances just like these. Enough said. We think this trumps nude breast painting.