Marteling van de Heilige Erasmus

On 27 August 1995, the last day of the exhibition ‘De Gemartelde tijd’ at the Chapel of the Romanesque Gate in Leuven, I performed the Marteling van de Heilige Erasmus’ (Torture of the Holy Erasmus). The performance is based on the three-part painting of the same name by Leuven painter Dieric Bouts of c. 1459, which depicts the torture of Saint Erasmus.

Erasmus of Formiae or Saint-Erasmus was a bishop in Italy who died as a martyr for his faith around the year 303. The specific nature of the torture is not described in literature, but in art the torture is often depicted as follows: his torturers tied him to the rack and cut open his abdomen. With a windlass, his small and large intestines were slowly twisted out of his abdomen.

At the performance, the audience entered the space through a glass door. The exhibition had ended and all the works had been removed. After the audience was inside, I attached a thin rope to the outside of the door, lay down on the ground and tied my feet to two poles on the footpath. I swallowed the other end of the rope tied to the door. 

The performance would stop when someone opened the door from the inside. After a brief moment of panic among the audience, a passer-by who had walked in unsuspectingly pulled the door open and snatched the rope from my throat.

Marteling van de Heilige Erasmus is also a meticulously recreated model of the performance based on the few photos taken of it. Using various 3D software programmes I mimicked my posture during the performance. Street tiles in a specific pattern and other attributes were also recreated in 3D. The whole model contains more than 250 individual 3D objects. The exhibition catalogue of De Gemartelde Tijd forms the background or ‘exhibition area’ of the Chapel of the Romanesque Gate where the performance took place.

3D print, plexiglass, ropes, exhibition catalog, laser engraving, mounted on grey MDF, 25cm x 26cm x 47cm.
Property of the artist.

Shown at:
  • Representing the Body as Space, Tool and Material in West, Den Haag, Netherlands, 2024.
  • Fantastic Voyage through the Body of an Artist in Kiosk, Gent, Belgium, 2024.
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