Austrian Artist Flatz Stuffs Dead Cow With Fireworks; Audience Reaction Mixed

News   Austrian Artist Flatz Stuffs Dead Cow With Fireworks; Audience Reaction Mixed Wolfgang Flatz, one of Europe's more provocative performance artists, gave perhaps his most explosive show to date in Berlin, July 19. According to Reuters, police cordoned off a main section of the ritzy Prenzlauer Berg district as thousands gathered to watch Flatz, wrapped in a (seemingly) blood-soaked sheet, suspended from a crane attached to a circling helicopter. Dropping the sheet, Flatz then appeared naked, his arms outstretched crucifixion style.

Wolfgang Flatz, one of Europe's more provocative performance artists, gave perhaps his most explosive show to date in Berlin, July 19. According to Reuters, police cordoned off a main section of the ritzy Prenzlauer Berg district as thousands gathered to watch Flatz, wrapped in a (seemingly) blood-soaked sheet, suspended from a crane attached to a circling helicopter. Dropping the sheet, Flatz then appeared naked, his arms outstretched crucifixion style.

But that wasn't all. To the sounds of loud music and mooing, another helicopter then appeared, carrying the headless carcass of a cow, which had been stuffed with fireworks. The bundle was then dropped on an abandoned building, where the cow exploded upon impact.

A thirteen-year-old girl had tried to stop the performance, titled "Meat," telling a judge that watching a cow detonate could trigger "spiritual shock." The judge denied her petition, however, noting that if she didn't want to see it, she didn't have to watch.

Those who did watch included animal rights protesters, one of whom told Reuters, "It is disgusting. Of course we condemn it," and said she feared copycat performance artists. Nevertheless, a local official told the German newspaper Berliner Zeitung that the performance couldn't be banned because a dead cow is considered food. City officials did have to test the dead animal for mad cow disease before allowing the event.

For all the protests, some audience members were apparently disappointed that the spectacle wasn't more thunderous and gory. Reuters reports that several onlookers thought the muted explosion was simply a separate, nearby fireworks display, rather than flossie hitting ground zero. Flatz, a performance satirist whose previous efforts include a photo series featuring a dog named Hitler, has also dabbled in "Tokyo Shock Boys"-style masochism, including, according to Reuters, serving as "a human doormat in front of a Munich art school" and having darts thrown at his naked body. For New Year's Eve 1990, Flatz became a human bell, bashing himself against two pieces of metal until he was rendered unconscious.

— By David Lefkowitz