Without a question artist Zhu Yu is most well known for his controversial performance Eating People.
This intricate piece, where the artist ate what appeared to be a human fetus, sparked much controversy and protest regarding, which manages to show how certain subject matter instigates knee jerk reactions without much analysis. The performance, which (beyond the way art and body can intersect) explores the vague space between that which is forbidden by religious/secular law (no laws or religious texts forbid the eating of another human being) and what is deemed immoral in human conscious, manages to gain what can be seen as a stronger success due to the controversy it managed to spark. Adding to this is the fact that the fetus was revealed to be fake, the viewers’ hatred towards the artist and his seeming lack of morals becomes a criticism on the easily swayed judgmental nature of the human mind. His less “naturally controversial” pieces are often overlooked, as is often the case with the controversial versus the intellectual. In his various Portraying Food paintings, the artist presents the remains of leftover meals on plain white plates and denominates them as paintings, expanding the boundaries of what can be considered painting rather than sculpture. Notions of art and its relation to [the capitalist mode] of consumption come to light as the viewer sees the remains of a meal, the most basic yet still commodified form of consumption transformed into art, which is often considered a non-essential form of consumption and more of an indulgence.
Text: Andrew Nunes