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Brits get ants in their pants over naked artist

Marussich's says his works often deals with the naked body and are well received in Europe. Pro Helvetia

A Swiss artist who lies naked in a glass box with hundreds of ants was stunned when police officers forced him to extricate himself from his artwork.

Yann Marussich was told that unsuspecting passers-by found his act obscene, saying there were not enough ants to cover up his private parts.

The Geneva-born artist, who spends up to five hours a day with 2,000 ants crawling over his body, rejects claims that his work is in any way provocative.

“I was really surprised [by the reaction in Britain] because in Paris it was considered normal,” he told swissinfo. “I didn’t expect such a response, they are crazy [in Britain].”

“I don’t understand because there is no provocation. I am naked but that is all,” he added.

His “Self-Portrait in an Ant Heap” was temporarily pulled from the Custard Factory Gallery in Birmingham, following complaints that the exhibit was visible from the street.

A screen now covers the box from the eyes of the city’s passers-by, and a warning sign put up inside the gallery.

Despite the incident, Marussich says the act has been well received in Britain.

“[Most] people are just curious. It’s like a mirror where they can see themselves – it’s something poetic,” he says.


As he lies dead still in the box with only a colony of ants for company, microphones allow spectators to listen to the sound of the ants and his heart beating. They can also watch the ants crawl over his body through cameras.

“It’s very simple to see, but presents a strong image.”

Marussich says it took him two years to come up with the idea.

“It’s a test of limits of the body, mind and it’s as if I’m really close to death. It’s an experience,” he said.


Marussich readies himself for his encounter with the insects by doing yoga exercises to focus his mind. He said he needs to completely calm before becoming a live artwork.

He puts cotton wool inside his ears and mouth to keep the ants away.

After the ant act, Marussich said he is exhausted and has to sleep.

“Self-Portrait in an Ant Heap” is due to tour in Switzerland at the beginning of July.

swissinfo, Samantha Tonkin and Ramsey Zarifeh

Yann Marussich’s act was temporarily pulled from the Custard Factory Gallery in the English city of Birmingham as a result of the complaints.

It has now been reinstated but there is a screen blocking the display from the view of passers-by and a warning has been put up in the gallery.

Marussich said he was surprised that passers-by in Britain were shocked by his act, claiming it was considered normal in Paris.

Marussich says the act tests the limits of the body and mind.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR