*** WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT ***
Latvian artist Arthur Berzinsh has cooked up some controversy after live streaming a cannibalistic performance where two people have their own flesh sliced off with a scalpel, sizzled in a pain, and then fed to them.
Needless to say, people were pretty outraged with the performance, spurring a flurry of complaints and even some attention from the police.
“This performance is a metaphor of consumer society that consumes itself,” the artist wrote in the description of the performance called Eschatology, which means the spiritual study of death and the “end times.”
“Even now, in post-postmodernism, we still don’t have the over-idea that brings us any meaning or justification of our existence.”
Regardless of what you think about the artistic message, cannibalism isn't recommended, scientifically speaking.
Human flesh is said to taste like a mix of pork and veal. Convicted murderer and cannibal Armin Meiwes reportedly said: "The flesh tastes like pork, a little bit more bitter, stronger. It tastes quite good." This is because human muscle tissue is made up of many similar proteins and fats as these large mammals.
Outside of edgy art shows and serial killers, there’s actually a strong history of cannibalism among humans. Archaeologists have discovered evidence of it throughout the ages from most corners of the world. In many historical instances, it was out of tradition or some kind of cultural practice rather than a for food.
Feasting on human flesh is not especially nutritious. All the flesh on an average human, not including the organs, contains around 32,375 calories. A human heart contains just over 650 calories, so probably just right for a good solid meal.
Just in case you are still not put off, eating human flesh comes with several health risks, namely in the form of bloodborne diseases like hepatitis and HIV and foodborne ones like E. Coli, if the meat has been poorly handled and undercooked.
Eating human brains comes with an especially strange side-effect. “Mad cow disease” spread because cattle were ingesting poor quality feed containing the brains of other cows. A similar condition can afflict humans, too. It's caused by something known as a prion, a misfolded protein that can be found in brain tissue. It isn’t a typical infection like a bacteria, virus, fungus, or parasite, but it is transmissible and can spread diseases such as Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.
As for the legality of all this, it's hazy. In the US, there are no laws explicitly against cannibalism but most states have laws that indirectly make it tough to legally obtain and consume human flesh. It's a similar deal in most other countries, although it varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Performing this act in public and then broadcasting it through social media comes with whole other bunch of muddly legal problems.
So, even if you are exploring the nature of death and consumerism through performance art, we can't recommend that you eat human flesh.