Friday, 25 March 2011

Paul McCarthy, Hot Dog

Paul McCarthy Hot Dog 1974

Paul McCarthy’s Hot Dog was performed in his basement studio before a small group of invited friends and artists. A crucial early work, it marked a turning point possessing for the first time the confrontational and violent quality of his later work. It bears some of the hallmarks of the works that would bring him notoriety: the Hollywood icon (the blonde-bombshell signified in the shades and wig he wears), the use of food-stuffs simultaneously standing in for bodily fluids and acting an allusion to American over-consumption, and a disturbing mixture of sex and violence.

As in other early McCarthy performances – works such a Meat Cake (1974), Tubbing (1975) and Class Fool (1976) – he utilises the immediacy of the intimate setting to affect a strong bodily reaction in his viewers. Physically disgusting acts (force feeding, anal insertions, genital manipulation) and displays of psychological dysfunction (repetitive speech, animalistic noises, self harm) create the feeling of an intrusion upon the private world of a damaged social outsider.

In this piece the artist begins by stripping down to his pants and shaving his body. He then shoves his penis into a hot dog bun and tapes it in place before smearing his ass with mustard. He approaches the audience, and in close proximity begins to drink ketchup and stuff his mouth to almost bursting point with hot dogs. Retching and gagging, he binds his head with bandages, holding the food stuffs in place his mouth, before filling his pants with a similar mixture.