Man films himself eating dead baby and calls it
January 1, 2003 11:55 PM   Subscribe

Man films himself eating dead baby and calls it "art" this calls to question many things. Such as cultural taboos and the importance of accepting the factor of "moral relativity". While I may find cannibalism to be sickening - some societies, such as the Anasazi apparently did not. Of course, even some in our culture can sympathize with the events that involved the Donner Party - but of course, eating a dead baby in the name of art is not a matter of survival, now is it? Can this be called art? Is doing something solely for the sake of shock value truly art?

At least there's always the humorous side of things [site appears down for now?], I suppose, even if some people don't get it.
posted by twiggy (33 comments total)
it's unlikely that this is done for pure shock value. the artist could have deconstructed his values enough to do it. at the risk of drawing a parallel, the donner party or the uruguyan football team who were stranded in the andes were forced to function with priorities radically different from what they have always accepted without question nor even the desire to question, the motivation being immediate survival. i doubt pure shock value or fame are profound enough influences to motivate someone who is not raised to eat human flesh to eat human flesh.
posted by elle at 1:05 AM on January 2, 2003

The pictures have been on for ages. They used to be here. But I havent checked (cos I'm in work)...
posted by couch at 1:36 AM on January 2, 2003

I doubt very much whether Channel 4 would have shown this if it was a British baby.
posted by Summer at 1:37 AM on January 2, 2003

I mentioned this story in another thread, a couple of days ago, but I thought it was too Jerry Springer for a front page post. I have to say that postmodern art is it's on worst enemy. Only in it's ability to disgust the average Walmart shopper can it be considered a success.
posted by Beholder at 2:08 AM on January 2, 2003

Probably a fake, unless the guys done something new since those pictures on If it is fake then it's sad that the media is too lazy to even do a google search on a guy.

Now Issei Sagawa... there's a real cannibal.
posted by bobo123 at 2:22 AM on January 2, 2003

Note that the source news items say "apparently eats"; every time the story is retold or summarised, the "apparently" vanishes. Zhu Yu's group uses cadaver material for their installations; however, given that we're talking about still photos, the eating could well be simulated. This is a fairly long-standing saga; The Independent ran a poorly-researched story early in 2001 about pictures of suspected ritual satanic abuse, which (had they done a simple web search) they'd have rapidly tracked down to Zhu Yu's work (see debunkings at and The Register. There are articles about Zhu Yu at - a high-quality site about contemporary Chinese art - but the link's currently down.
posted by raygirvan at 4:31 AM on January 2, 2003

Oh, yes. Someone in China - a nation that's had more than a few problems with population and getting rid of bothersome female babies - puts together a model out of duck bits and a doll and of course he's doing it to shock WalMart shoppers.*

Yes, that's it. It couldn't possibly be him trying to say something that whole population issue.

Also, I like the off-handed categorization and dismissal of the WalMart plebes. Very classy, I've never seen the whole "label and denigrate certain members of society" tactic before.
posted by kavasa at 5:46 AM on January 2, 2003

This is a Chinese artist featured on a UK TV programme. What's WalMart got to do with it?
posted by Summer at 5:52 AM on January 2, 2003

Walmart executives eat babies? Michael Moore, call your office!
posted by luser at 7:17 AM on January 2, 2003

Summer, I was responding to Beholder.
posted by kavasa at 7:34 AM on January 2, 2003

There's a fine, fine line between actual art and just being a jagoff. What separates the artists from the jagoffs is the ability to determine where that line is.
posted by UncleFes at 7:44 AM on January 2, 2003

find cannibalism to be sickening - some societies, such as the Anasazi apparently did not.

The last data I had on this was this was when the society was on the decline due to a drought. ALA 'donner pass' or the 'uruguyan football team' or wherever you are starving and someone died.

We have no survivors to confirm it however.
posted by rough ashlar at 7:49 AM on January 2, 2003

it is a fake. snopes says so.
posted by grabbingsand at 8:00 AM on January 2, 2003

Fame is a whore.
posted by the fire you left me at 8:05 AM on January 2, 2003

Thanks for the snopes link, grabbingsand... normally i check snopes right away.. I shoulda looked...

As for the "apparently" sneaking out.. another honest mistake.. looks like I'm guilty of something I give some of my friends a lot of crap about.. d'oh...

But at least I don't believe microsoft can track if I've forwarded this email and give me $218.73 for each one, I guess...

Despite that.. it still disturbs me that someone would eat an "effigy" of a baby as "art", too.. which is really the original point I wanted to make... I don't care if he's trying to "say something about the population problem" - there's a million less sickening and more clear ways to do it... Offhand I can think of several shocking/disturbing, but not so grotesquely offensive means...
posted by twiggy at 8:11 AM on January 2, 2003

Summer, I was responding to Beholder.

posted by Summer at 8:16 AM on January 2, 2003

.... trying to say something [about the] whole population issue

And furthermore, he has precisely targeted a very raw nerve. The images seem to have revived, by association, the whole body of unverified foetus-eating stories about China (the blood libel, essentially). In my view it's disturbing because Zhu Yu has deliberately made explicit a fear and prejudice; here is a Chinese man claiming to do openly what many people half-believe the Chinese do.
posted by raygirvan at 9:00 AM on January 2, 2003

Art can be something pretty. Art can be appreciated for its craft. Art can also be the creative expression of a statement or idea.

Baby eating has been successfully used in art to express ideas in the past.

In other words, I'm not as outraged as I think this post wants me to be.

Plus cannibalism is just plain interesting.

More from the frontlines against "modern art".
posted by dgaicun at 9:00 AM on January 2, 2003

dgaicun: "... successfully used in art ... in the past ..."

Not forgetting Goya.
posted by raygirvan at 9:07 AM on January 2, 2003

Oh my God, ray. Striking parallel!
posted by dgaicun at 9:35 AM on January 2, 2003

The More You Know:

"Eating an egg is like eating a chicken's baby. So every time you eat eggs, think about eatin' baby."
posted by shepd at 9:40 AM on January 2, 2003

Actually, raygirvan may have a more salient point. It could very well be that the piece is less about China's population problem and more about how China is percieved. He may be looking at the world and saying "is this really what you think of us? Just because we're Chinese?"

I mean, who knows. It could be, though.

No apologies necessary, Summer. You asked a question, I answered. :)
posted by kavasa at 12:30 PM on January 2, 2003

Eating an egg is like eating a chicken's baby

Um, no. It's like eating a chicken's egg.
posted by kindall at 1:15 PM on January 2, 2003

this is something those Nazis would have done!!
Godwin rules
posted by troutfishing at 3:41 PM on January 2, 2003

this is something those Nazis would have done!!

This is begging for one of those executed-in-4-minutes quonsar photoshop bombs. I see corpulent Hermann Goering munching on a cabbage patch kid like a glazed ham. It is all so reminiscent of Fat Bastard from Austin Powers (Get in my Bell-eh!).
posted by dgaicun at 4:22 PM on January 2, 2003

I just finished watching the TV programme in question.. it is part of Channel 4's China season.

It was interesting. It featured the baby eating guy, but not in an particular detail. There was also a woman who took pictures of her periods, a guy who has hot wax dripping on him, and our favorite Chu and JJ (they ran naked across Westminster Bridge a few years ago) putting a chopped off human penis into a glass of water and then drinking the water.

This all sounds disgusting and bizarre when taken out of context like this, but placed in the context of communist China, it actually made some sense. Good show.

Sadly, I think this might turn into the next 'Brass Eye'. A scandal over absolutely nothing. This program didn't shock me at all, but it was quite a valid look at modern art and attitudes in China.

Now let's get ready for a bunch of 'I know better' politicians and 'TV nannies' to come bleating on about how disgusting it is and trying to get Channel 4 beaten to a pulp.
posted by wackybrit at 4:28 PM on January 2, 2003

MMMMMMM! Dijon Rack of Doberman! (from Pets or Food)
posted by Wet Spot at 4:59 PM on January 2, 2003

Yes, context was vital. Much of the extremity seemed more understandable when the baseline was explained in Chinese culture. Overall, the interviews with Zhu Yu and others suggested very recognisable motivations for their art: statements on life and death, gender issues, political protest, and certainly in some cases desire to 'push the boundaries' and shock. It wasn't water, by the way, but rice wine that they marinaded the penis in. This made far more sense when they showed that traditional Chinese shops still sell bull penis wine. Though even at an artists' party, I noticed they didn't get many takers to drink the stuff.
posted by raygirvan at 5:02 PM on January 2, 2003

Kindall makes me feel like that Garfield episode where he loses all the colour from his life.

...Because everything that's worth saying has been said before, and on PrimeTime!
posted by shepd at 5:03 PM on January 2, 2003

It wasn't water, by the way, but rice wine that they marinaded the penis in.

Oh, I did wonder. I wouldn't have drunk it just because of that reason, not sure of the penis ;-)

The idea of a penis soaking in wine doesn't put me off specifically, even if the guy had spat in it I wouldn't have drunk it :-) But they seem to eat and drink a lot of crazy crap.. (said in a nice culture friendly way) did you see Graham Norton in Shanghai beforehand?
posted by wackybrit at 8:02 PM on January 2, 2003

"Certain things, if not seen as lovely or detestable, are not being correctly seen at all." ~C.S. Lewis
posted by aaronshaf at 11:38 PM on January 2, 2003

But they seem to eat and drink a lot of crazy crap.. (said in a nice culture friendly way)

I don't have a reference, but I've read somewhere that this is explicable in terms of historical food shortage.
posted by raygirvan at 3:19 AM on January 3, 2003

What does that mean? "It's only correct to view some things through a filter of moral and aesthetic preconceptions endorsed by CS Lewis" ?
posted by raygirvan at 10:56 AM on January 3, 2003

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