The Weirdest Pieces of Art I've Ever Seen

And how they changed my life.

In March of 2010 I was 15 years old and had flown from my hometown of Red Deer, Alberta, Canada, to New York City with 20 other art students from my high school. The day was cold and overcast as we walked through the Museum of Modern Art's glass doors, our clueless tour guide trying to help our rambunctious crew navigate.

I saw signs for an exhibition called "The Artist is Present" by Marina Abramovic, a show the guide deemed too inappropriate for us to walk through. But as the work of good contemporary artists suggests, rules are just extremely loose, breakable guidelines—so I made my way up to the sixth floor.

The exhibition became one of the most important retrospectives in the museum's history, a collection of bizarre performance artworks that forced viewers outside of their comfort zone. Case in point, a nude man and woman stood in the entrance, and I had to squeeze between them to get into the space.

In the years following that moment, I have made it through art school, refined my artistic vocabulary by pushing through dense academic art writings, and attended art fairs and exhibitions. However, my favorite word to describe the avant-garde always has been and will continue to be "weird." The term "weird" is subjective, yes. It kind of means nothing other than the departure from the status quo. But we know what weird is when we see it. Usually weird things are the best things we see all day.

Below are the weird artworks that changed how I think of contemporary art.

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Weird Art No. 1: The Biggest Breakup of 1988

The grandmother of performance art, Marina Abramovic, and her longtime lover and collaborator, Ulay, built a prolific career out of serious endurance pieces. When things got rough in the late 1980s, they decided to call things off in an equally intense, but beautiful way. The lovers walked toward each other from opposite ends of the Great Wall of China, covering 1,553 miles in 90 days. They met in the middle and broke up, declaring to never see each other again. A poetic final performance, but all I can say is, I'd rather just meet at a local McCafe.

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Weird Art No. 2: The Performance That Made Me Gag

During a SXSW performance of her song "Swine," Lady Gaga invited puke painter Millie Brown to vomit paint on her while she sang. The stunt received mixed reviews (naturally). However, the performance introduced the world to Brown's extreme art practice, which involves first ingesting paint and then ejecting it onto the canvas.

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Weird Art No. 3: The World's Scariest Baby

Patricia Piccinini makes incredibly realistic sculptures of bioengineered human-monster hybrids, using silicone, found objects, and real human hair. I don't know what this strange pig baby is, but let's give him a friendly name like Cooper, so he doesn't haunt my dreams.

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Weird Art No. 4: The Month-Long Snack

Chocolate is very delicious, but can it be art? Uh, yes. For this yummy piece, Janine Antoni took a 600-pound slab of chocolate and a 600-pound slab of lard and gnawed it (as the name suggests). It took her over a month and a half to chew the heavy cubes into the minimalist sculptures that she desired.

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Weird Art No. 5: The Photo That Might *Piss* You Off

Andres Serrano's work is not for the faint of heart. His controversial pieces tend to make a lot of people angry. But hey, as an artist, that's usually when you know that you're onto something. "Piss Christ" is a photograph made after reportedly submerging a crucifix into a tank of the artist's own urine. Let's just let that one sink in.

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Weird Art No. 6: The Case for Not Cleaning Your Room

Have you ever looked at your unmade bed before leaving in the morning and felt guilty? Don't. In 1999, Tracey Emin exhibited her personal bed at the Tate Gallery. Complete with empty booze bottles, personal products, and the stains from numerous body fluids. It gained massive media attention from critics who said that the artist went "too far" and that "anyone could exhibit a bed." Yeah? Well, why didn't they?

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Weird Art No. 7: The James Franco Political Statement

In 2013, James Franco added painter to his list of occupations—after fiction writer, screenwriter, director, teacher. Calling the painting Fat Corgi, Franco wrote in his artist statement, "The fat animals are us…Animals aren't meant to be fat, their ecosystems should keep them at their natural sizes, the same with humans, but we long ago subverted the natural laws of hunting and gathering and can eat as many sugars and salts as we want from any street corner with a McDonalds." What he said.

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Weird Art No. 8: The Ultimate Sleeping Beauty

Tilda Swinton's performance of The Maybe is an inspiration to would-be nappers everywhere. I actually stumbled into this unannounced piece at MoMA a couple of years ago. It was literally just Tilda Swinton sleeping in a glass box. I didn't know if she could hear me or not, so I told her I loved her in The Chronicles of Narnia and that I wished I could sleep in a glass box as well.

Follow me on Snapchat (@ryanduffin) for more of my weird art adventures.

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