The Tattooed Pigs, Gothic Trucks, and Sex-Rays of Wim Delvoye
05 juni 2020 
7 min. read

The Tattooed Pigs, Gothic Trucks, and Sex-Rays of Wim Delvoye

Today we’ll take a look at the works by a Belgian conceptual artist Wim Delvoye (born 1965), who is well-known for his ability to combine incongruous things, which will make your brain explode.

This crazy man has a farm with alive tattooed pigs, he creates bulldozers looking like Notre-Dame de Paris, and uses X-ray to make some sensual photographs. Feel intrigued? Then let’s examine the series of pictures made with barium and X-ray machines without any photoshopping.

 Alive tattooed pigs. Art Farm, by wim delvoye

Fig.1. Alive tattooed pigs. Art Farm, 2003-2010 (photo’s taken from wimdelvoye.be)

Wim Delvoye: The gothic cement truck, 2013

Fig. 2. The gothic cement truck, 2013 (wimdelvoye.be).

Mr. & Mrs. Röntgen

In one of his interviews, Delvoye mentions that the first x-ray picture taken by Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen was of his wife’s hand with a ring. The decision to use the roentgen machine came to Delvoye when he realized that, however, both x-ray and cinema were invented at the same time, filmmaking is far more popular, while the potential of x-ray in art remains undiscovered.

Wim Delvoye: The first x-ray image of knuckles by Röntgen,

Fig. 3. The first x-ray image by Röntgen, 1895.

wim delvoye: Kuniyoshi skeleton

Fig. 4. ‘X-Ray’ in Shunga: Kuniyoshi‘s Penis Skeleton (Karikkotsu) from Kaidan hyakki yagyô series (1830). Taken from kuniyoshiproject.com

Delvoye created a series of sex-rays in 2001 in a Belgian clinic. He succeeded in finding a doctor who agreed to use an x-ray machine to capture couples making love. The viewer can’t help thinking of Eros and Thanatos relation while looking at the images of shiny skeletons. According to his own words, Delvoye produced these photos on Saturdays, when the clinic didn’t receive any patients.

The macabre sense grows stronger if we realize that in many cultures Saturday (‘the day of Saturn’) is the day of the dead. Delvoye admits that his sex-rays are ‘a form of hyper-pornography, which is in a way a form of anti-pornography.’ Probably his works are the most precise depictions of a subtle point where Eros turns into Thanatos.

Wim Delvoye: Dick 2. 2001. Cibachrome on aluminium.

Fig. 5. Dick 2. 2001. Cibachrome on aluminium.

Wim Delvoye: Dick 3. 2001. Cibachrome on aluminium.

Fig. 6. Dick 3. 2001. Cibachrome on aluminium.

Delvoye’s interest in the interaction of humans and machines has its’ roots in the esthetic of surrealists, such as Man Ray and Duchamp. The influence of the 18th century is pretty obvious too, especially when we talk about Delvoye’s Cloaca or ‘shit machine’ imitating the digestive tract work. The comparison of the human body and the whole Universe to a machine appeared in the period of Enlightenment. The X-ray allows us to see the mechanical nature of our bodies, usually hidden behind the clothing, and the mechanics of love-making itself.

The results of this extraordinary approach to erotic photography can’t not evoke the titles of treatises of that time, like Machine Man by de La Mettrie. Yet the glowing bones and aura-looking flesh strangely remind us of our celestial genesis. Therefore, we find ourselves balancing not only between love and death but also between rationality and spirituality while observing these hauntingly beautiful works.

Wim Delvoye: Blow, 2001. Cibachrome on aluminium.

Fig. 7. Blow, 2001. Cibachrome on aluminium.

Wim Delvoye: Kiss. 2001 Cibachrome on aluminium.

Fig. 8. Kiss. 2001 Cibachrome on aluminium.

The gender and colonial studies were the things that had provoked Delvoye to produce his sex-rays. It was an attempt to escape from the 1990s to the 19th century full of mad scientists like Röntgen. And also it was a return to the basics of humankind without any racial or gender issues. X-ray peels any being like a potato, and what we see is an essence of an alive mechanism called homo sapiens. These images don’t make anyone feel guilty of anything, despite the trend of modern art and social studies. Delvoye calls his sex-rays ‘equalizers’. He is the first artist who uses x-ray images as a way to protest against the contemporary spirit of guilt.

Wim Delvoye: Lick. 2001. Cibachrome on aluminium.

Fig. 9. Lick. 2001. Cibachrome on aluminium.

Butt. 2001. Cibachrome on aluminium by Wim Delvoye

Fig. 10. Butt. 2001. Cibachrome on aluminium.

Wim Delvoye doesn’t bother himself thinking whether what he’s doing is an art or not. His natural curiosity, which he keeps in mind since childhood, is the only motivation and inspiration. In the interview, he confesses one of his key creative principles: ‘Anything I see I think of putting my dick in it, to find out what it feels like.’ This statement in a funny way corresponds with a biblical sense of the verb ‘to know’, which means ‘to have sexual relations’, as it’s said that Adam knew Eve after the fall had happened. Meanwhile, the artistic insights of Delvoye persuade us that ‘to know’ doesn’t mean being guilty.

Wim Delvoye: Kiss 4. 2001. Cibachrome on aluminium.

Fig. 11. Kiss 4. 2001. Cibachrome on aluminium.

If you want to see more works of Delvoye, visit his amazing site wimdelvoye.be!

Sources: Like Judas Kissing Jesus, Marc Valli, Elephant, Spring, 2010

What do you think about the art of this Belgian provocateur? Leave your comment in the comment box below….!!

About the author
Darya is a philologist who lives and works in Saint-Petersburg, Russia. She is specialized in Russian literature.
Marijn
By

Marijn

on 12 Jun 2020

Great introduction to an extraordinary artist. Thanks Darya!

Darya
By

Darya

on 12 Jun 2020

You'.re welcome!

JB
By

JB

on 01 Jul 2021

I love Delvoye's work. The SEXRAYS series is amazing at many levels, but the idea that all that's there is two humans, two bodies, and that's all we know about the players, abstracted and universalized, beyond (or is it before?) skin, hair, eye color, makes the whole creator/lover (in the act and of beauty)/observer accomplices and partners on the statement, "who gives a fuck!?" It takes you beyond being what you see to becoming what you feel. The remarks under "The Art of Putting a Dick in Things and Not Giving a Fuck" are priceless --- I wasn't aware of Delvoye's attitude that "to know" you need to "dick it;" the image of a man spear in hand touching a painting of some animal on the walls of a cave, is primitive and magical, shamanic. Life and death, Eros and Thanatos, is all we can be certain off. Everything else are random variables. Even his Gothic cathedral cement truck is skeletal. Don't care for the pigs. You can't consensually tattoo them. Wondering if he also stuck his dick in them or just figuratively screwed them.

Darya
By

Darya

on 01 Jul 2021

Yeah, that's a good observation on his Sexrays. The art of not giving a fuck about things as I mentioned :)

JB
By

JB

on 01 Jul 2021

Yep! :)

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