The Serpent is Eating Itself: Art, Capital Economies, and Cannibalism

A dispatch from the wonderful world of conceptual art:

The Latvian artist Arthur Berzinsh has provoked an online backlash after live-streaming a “cannibal” performance piece, during which two performers have their own flesh sliced off, fried, and fed to them.

The piece, titled Eschatology, and performed by Olga Kuļikova, Jānis Mihejevs, Suura Nettle, and the collective PainProTest, was staged earlier this month at the Grata JJ cultural center in Latvia’s capital city, Riga. In it, a woman in a white hazmat suit uses surgical tweezers and a scalpel to slice small sections of flesh from the backs of a male and female performer before frying the skin and feeding it back to them.

But how does a five-minute bout of nauseating performance art relate to the apocalypse?

According to Berzinsh, the performance is a metaphor for consumer society consuming itself . . . The artist-philosopher explains that consumerism is the religion of our times; in modern society, we have yet to discover greater meaning in our lives, so we fill ourselves by endlessly “consuming, products, resources, and each other,” albeit mentally rather than physically.

The consumption of the self is the last is the hypothetical final stage of capitalism; the human body is the final resource, thus its consumption marks the last days of the capitalist economy.