Life

Art Students On the Weirdest Shit They’ve Seen at Art School

“She had a wank in the middle of Central Saint Martins and called it performance art.”
November 11, 2021, 9:30am
Fine Art School Weird Stuff London UK LCF CSM Goldsmiths
Photos courtesy of interview subjects

Art schools are no stranger to weird shit. Take that time a Goldsmiths grad dumped 29 tonnes of carrots on campus, leading to a group of anti-carrot protestors who lamented the student wasting so much food. And then there was that Central Saint Martins student who was supposed to lose his anal virginity for a performance piece, but ended up eating a bunch of bananas inside a booth instead.

Of course, British art schools have always produced some very innovative and creative minds – Tracey Emin, Jenny Saville, Chris Ofili etc – who might never have achieved recognition had they been quiet and retiring normies. Emin once took a sledgehammer to the paintings she produced while at the Royal College of Arts, after all. Which makes it all the more depressing that government funding for art and design courses in the UK will soon be cut by 50 percent

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Art school funding might be on the decline, but what about the grand tradition of art students doing weird shit? Is that still alive and well in the UK?

I decided to find out by asking some art students about the strangest and most unhinged things they’ve seen at art school. 

Alex, 22, University of the Creative Arts: ‘She made an entire painting using other people’s blood’

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I was in the illustration and animation course. We were always a bit wary of the Fine Art course because it can get a bit weird. We found out that a Fine Art girl had a vial of blood that she was drawing from other people and she'd made an entire photography-slash-painting project using other people’s blood. We actually found a piece of paper with the brown, dried blood on it – it was the weirdest thing.

One day the girl came up to me and she was like, “Can I take some of your blood?” She actually asked me. I was like “Um… no.”

Catrin, 27, Central Saint Martins: ‘I felt scissors on the back of my neck’

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One girl in my Fine Art class had a project where she wanted a bit of all her classmates’ hair, including the teachers. She would not simply ask for a strand from your head, she would just cut it from your head whenever she wanted. One day in class I was working and felt some scissors on the back of my neck: She was cutting my hair and then put it in a sandwich bag. I also saw her doing it in the lunch hall. 

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Also, when we joined St Martins, we were given these tote bags that said “I’m at CSM, aren’t you?” One group made a project where we each wore our tote bags over our heads Guantanamo Bay style, along with our student number at the bottom of the image. 

Aamani, 18, London College of Fashion: ‘She had a wank in the middle of Saint Martins’

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There was this girl at Central Saint Martins – I don't personally know her, this is just like a legend of UAL [University of the Arts London] – but this girl brought a mattress into the middle of campus where everyone would have their lessons and stuff and started masturbating on it. She had a wank in the middle of Saint Martins and called it performance art. Teachers were okay with it and allowed it to happen, as it was art.

There's also a big love of nudity, I guess. My friend told me from her time in her Fine Art class that they had a task on self-portraiture and most of the lads in the class, instead of painting a picture or drawing a picture of themselves, decided to paint their penises. There were maybe like ten or 11 boys who had this response to the task. So I think this was interesting because, firstly, what the hell? And also, like, are they bringing in pictures of their peens? Or do they draw it from memory? How can they remember exactly what it looks like?

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Ronnie, 19, Goldsmiths University: ‘The student took roadkill and stuffed them’

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During our third year degree show last year, one person did an art installation of taxidermy animals that they stuffed. Basically the student in question took roadkill – squirrels, rabbits, and there might have been badgers too – stuffed them, and then laid them out as if they had their own home. They put them around a little tiny dining table as if they were human beings living their lives. There was a squirrel at the top of the table with a hat on. There was surround sound as well, to kind of make it sound like a forest. The smell was… interesting.

Olaoluwapo, 21, University of the Arts London: ‘The was a whole jam circle going on’

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Once I went into university to get some work done in the computer lab, but when I tapped in to get past the electric gate I was slapped with the sound of utter chaos. I walked up the stairs and there was a whole jam circle going on: One person slamming empty buckets, someone smashing keyboards, guitar being played on someone’s feet, with some person drawing all of this. There was this distorted backing track playing too. It was so loud, in the middle of uni, right by the cafeteria.​​ Some people just walked by like it was normal but others stopped and took pictures.

Olivia, 20, Central Saint Martins and the Slade School of Fine Art: ‘His friend mixed his hair into bread’

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​​At my time at Central Saint Martins, one of my classmates had shoulder length hair. For a piece of art, he got his friend to cut all of his hair off with a knife on a cutting board. His friend proceeded to mix his hair into ingredients to make bread, which was baked in the oven, covered with plaster and neatly sealed in a plastic box.

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Nina, 22, Central Saint Martins: ‘Out comes his dick and he begins to pee’

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The first one that comes to mind happened in week two or three of the course, back when we were all getting to know one another. We were summoned into a room by a classmate while another filmed us, with a strange audio clip playing. We weren’t told anything. Then in walks this guy from our class, wearing nothing but Dr Martens and a pink thong. He struts to the end of the room, turns around, whips out a cup, out comes his dick, and he begins to pee a dark and ominous pee. He then drinks it in the longest downing I've witnessed, finishes it, announces “it is done”, and that was that.

Leilani, 19, Arts University Bournemouth: ‘We heard yelling and screaming outside’

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We were in a life drawing class and I looked out the window and there were a bunch of acting students charging at us with sticks and yelling. I think there were like 30 of them? And then a bit later on when we were in the studio, we heard yelling and screaming outside and saw them charging at us with sticks again. So I picked up a mop and charged back at them, with the end of the mop.

Francis, 20, University of Westminster: ‘Eating fake poop and rubbing it all over herself’

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The craziest thing I've seen was actually the other day. I was very hungover, sitting in the seminar room, room spinning, really trying to stay awake and to not vomit while watching a video of one of my closest friends dressed in a blue morph suit and blue bunny hat, eating fake poop and rubbing it all over herself. I could have been sick. It was good.

@serenathesmith