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Millie Brown: Is vomiting rainbows glamorous, dangerous, or just gross?

Date: July 20, 2011 | Posted By:

Brown says her vomit art leaves her with a sense of "self-inflicted purity."

The everlasting and continual question: What is art?

The boundaries of this question are only pushed further by controversial London artist Millie Brown, also known as the Vomit Painter. Her newest and most famous work “Nexus Vomitus” is for sale and valued at $2,400.

Millie began her vomit technique in 2006, when her art collective !WOWOW! was asked to be a part of an exhibition in Berlin. Millie, unsure of her craft at the time, only brought brightly colored soymilk and an empty canvas and decided to ingest the medium and regurgitate it on the spot.

Since beginning her avant-garde artistic technique, she has made a living traveling the globe performing in films, short pieces, and in front of audiences. She has collaborated with—or rather, barfed on—Lady Gaga on a video interlude for Gaga’s “Monster Ball” tour. She has also worked with ShowStudio, Nick Knight, Ruth Hogben, Gareth Pugh, Matthew Stone, Diane Pernet, Griffin, Jez Tozer, and Adham Faramawy.

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Millie states that she doesn’t “find the vomit vulgar” because “there’s no food in [her] stomach, as [she doesn’t] eat two days prior to performing”—I’m sure that’s healthy for her body, and very educational by reflecting anorexic and bulimic behaviors that surround body-centric issues many people face today. However, when specifically asked about these unhealthy endorsements, Millie states that her performances were “never a conscious comment on bulimia; it was more about using [her] body to create art in a way that challenges people’s perception of beauty.” Her goal was “to create something real and something [she] couldn’t control, tapping into primal urges,” and Millie states “in no way [does she] want to promote bulimia.

I find it hard to believe that she does not recognize her glamorization of a disease that deluges and destroys many peoples’ lives. I appreciate her redefinition of beauty, and it is necessary in today’s self-conscious society, but I find this a step in the wrong direction. Her fasting and puking for the sake of art are unhealthy behaviors to demonstrate, and it is unfair to expect the younger generations to distinguish unhealthy behaviors from artistic preparations.

Millie Brown defends herself by stating her “work evokes us to think about a disease that affects so many people” in a way that “rais[es] some awareness.I find this an absurd way to spread awareness about such an important topic that impacts large populations. Additionally, though it’s her prerogative, she is not very “concerned about the effects on [her] health, as it’s not something [she does] every day.” How enlightening.

She recognizes what she is doing and shrugs off criticism and well-being for the sake of art. Her impact on contemporary art may become legendary—who knows; however, for now she is glamorizing bulimic behaviors and giving an artistic allure to a harmful, destructive act. I find Millie Brown’s contribution to art as bulimic devaluation with a pinch of Two-Girls-One-Cup–style publicity grabbing.

As Leo Tolstoy reminds us in What is Art (1896), art is relevant to every aspect of the human condition and must embrace any human activity. So I pose the question: Is Millie Brown a revolutionary artist or just a part of an anti-mainstream, hipster-focused society that features unhealthy lifestyle choices just to simply make people’s stomachs sick for the sake of estranged beauty? Or is she degrading the struggle of bulimic populations? Or is she just suffering for her art like every artist? A turn-of-the-century Jackson Pollock? Whatever the answer, this woman in high heels manages to receive various reactions, including “nervous laughter, cheering, [and] people having to leave.”

What’s your reaction?

Jacqueline Freedman is a summer intern at About-Face. She’s currently working toward a BA in Media Studies at Scripps College.




What Do You Think?

11 Responses to Millie Brown: Is vomiting rainbows glamorous, dangerous, or just gross?

  1. Christine (Blisschick) Reed on 07-20-2011

    This makes me so angry that I can't read it thoroughly.

    "There's no food in her stomach" shows how utterly IGNORANT we are. Vomiting is an extraordinary act of violence to the body (including doing things to your HEART) and that is WHY the body saves it for EXTREME circumstances.

    One more example of the DEGRADATION of the miracle of the human body in the name of COMMERCE.
  2. Amy on 07-21-2011

    Agree with Christine, this is harmful to the artist in ways she can't understand. There may not be food in her stomach but there is stomach acid, and a continuous regurgitation of stomach acid eventually deteriorates your esophagus, as we have seen with acid reflux disease. Your body was designed to purge the stomach in extreme cases. She's not doing it every day, but it's still harming her by doing it more than her body naturally calls for.

    Not to mention the other aspects. I think she stepping in the wrong direction. I hate to think of other people who might want to try this out - they might choke or do something more serious to themselves. Someone might even try it with real paint. I also think she's just trying to go for shock value and popularity, and it's apparently working.
  3. Kjerstin on 07-21-2011

    I find this grotesque, horrifying, and irresponsible. This video and the "artist's" performances literally teach observers how to purge. It made me feel sick and angry.
  4. Ange on 07-25-2011

    It is so gross and no way an art form.
    Plus Lady Gaga should have really thought twice before supporting such an "artist".
    Gosh, I can even bear watching that stuff:/
  5. Jasmine on 07-27-2011

    That's beyond stupid not to mention gross
  6. Jasmine on 07-27-2011

    How is that art i could throw up on stuff
  7. Lindsay on 07-28-2011

    It's just my opinion, but I really can't see that anyone other than a bulimic would ever want to vomit for a living. Normal people find vomiting a very unpleasant experience. It is only we so afflicted who can do it so easily, so repeatedly, and just keep performing, rather than take time out to recuperate.

    And yeah, I could throw up on stuff, too. Lady Gaga, I'll sit on your lap and cut myself. I'm redefining the definitions of my arteries. It's art. Pay me.
  8. Laura on 07-31-2011

    I like the idea, I guess her art is not for everyone although I must admit this piece is a bit much even for me...
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U8YVgjKXbHE&feature=youtube_gdata_player
  9. Hal on 08-08-2011

    It is not healthy or ideal, but it is art. I am not one to decide if it is good art, or meaningful, or especially creative, but it certainly is art, for it is created with artistic intent. That's what defines art.
  10. reallady on 09-17-2011

    her feet are facing the opposite way.
  11. rhys on 11-07-2011

    i am doing artist research for my gcse photography work and i find her work amazing i think its the shock factor that makes it so good i think to slander her just because she might be doing harm to her self is rather stupid artists will risk everything to create there art last art mock i did i made a whole paper dress which took me like 5 moths and i burned it in about 4 minutes for my artwork shore not exactly the same but still you get the point either way i love this <3