Great Escapes

05.28.14

The Man Who Ate His Hip…for Art

You can get away with anything these days…as long as you call it “art.” The most egregious offender of this new trend: a Norwegian student who committed self cannibalism.

When Alexander Selvik Wengshoel had his damaged hip replaced, the 25-year-old Norwegian artist lobbied his doctor to allow him a camera in the surgery theater. But Wengshoel not only wanted to film the procedure, he also wanted to retain the damaged—but still fleshy—bone as a culinary keepsake.

“I had to boil off the meat to get to the bone, and when I started scraping off the meat, I took a little piece and thought, ‘Why not do it?’” he told The Local. “It’s not every day I will have a piece of human flesh which is mine and which it is possible to eat. So I had a little taste, and then I thought, ‘That’s really nice.’”

The face-tattooed Wengshoel might sound like a narcissistic, Scandinavian Jeffrey Dahmer, but he claims to have chomped on his own hip meat in the service of art (and we’re taking his word for it, though who would lie about such a thing?). Both video of the surgery and the extracted bone are currently on display at Tromsø Academy of Contemporary Art, where Wengshoel is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in pretentiousness.

“It had been so hard to have [the bone] in my body, and when I took it out, it turned into something else, something romantic,” he said of his latest work, which consists of, well, his former hip bone. “It was a natural process I felt I had to do to move on. I just work with my own body, that is my canvas… Previously I wasn’t given any choice by doctors, but now I can take control myself and decide what I want to do with it.”

And so he did what any other exploratory artist would do: he savored it, quite literally, with potato gratin and a glass of wine, while his unsuspecting girlfriend was at work (we’re trusting the existence of a girlfriend story is true, too). “It had this flavour of wild sheep, if you take a sheep that goes in the mountains and eats mushrooms. It was goaty.”

“He savored it, quite literally, with potato gratin and a glass of wine.”

So how much meat did the hungry artist scrape from his wilted hip? “A handful, it wasn’t that much, it was not enough to get full, it was just an appetizer,” he told The Local. Not enough for a proper meal, but surely enough to garner global media attention.

Under most circumstances, the devouring of human flesh—even one’s own—is called cannibalism, a practice largely frowned upon in the West. But in Woengshel’s case, it’s art—because he says it’s art: “It’s nice to get people thinking about their own bodies, and their own view on their bodies, and what it’s possible to do with the body. I just work with my own body. That is my canvas.” He hoped his feast would “start a discussion,” though what this discussion should be about was left unsaid.

And he did indeed succeed in starting a discussion: one demonstrating, yet again, that us media types will give a respectful hearing to a college student gnawing on his own flesh, provided he tells us that it’s “art.”