Simon Brugner, The Arsenic Eaters

The organism is an individual entity. In order to exist, it must distinguish itself from its environment; it needs to create an inner and an outer. But the organism is not self-sufficient. It is subjected to constant lack: to survive, the organism must feed on what surrounds it. The act of eating, of ingesting, is an essential but also daring act of submission. To ingest any substance means to open oneself up and to swallow and incorporate the outer world. The barrier between the inner and outer, the self and the other, the organism and its environment, disintegrates. By eating we allow the outer world to leak into our body. Eating arsenic was an archaic way of staying alive. The habit was based on the historical belief that the consumption of mineral arsenic is beneficial to one’s health. But it was said that eating arsenic was a commitment for life; that one must never stop or one would eventually die a painful death. To survive, the arsenic eaters went as far as letting a virulent, corrosive substance permeate their body. The poison at the same time irritated but also stimulated the organism. The arsenic eaters prevailed over their environment by submitting to it: they let arsenic take control.


Simon Brugner (b. 1983, Austria) lives in Vienna. He obtained a master’s degree in media theory before starting to work in the medium of photography. In 2016, he was awarded a scholarship for promising young artists by the Austrian Ministry for Education, Arts and Culture. In 2018, he released his first major publication, The Arsenic Eaters (The Eriskay Connection).


Bunkier Sztuki Gallery of Contemporary Art
pl. Szczepański 3a


26.04.2019, 6 pm

Exhibition open:

Tue–Sun 11.00–19.00


6 PLN / 12 PLN

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