Thursday, March 22, 2007
Piero Manzoni's "Artist's Shit" (1961). Digestion and excretion. Elimination of solid waste. Making number two. Taking a big ol' dump. Humans have taken an inordinate amount of interest in their own shit production. Even primates at the zoo are frequently seen flinging or consuming their own feces, so there's a long evolutionary tradition at work. But to what end? Manzoni’s "Artist's Shit" has some forerunners in 20th Century art (Marcel Duchamp's urinal ("Fontaine", 1917) or the Surrealists' coprolalic wits. Salvador Dalì, Georges Bataille and first of all Alfred Jarry's "Ubu Roi" (1896) had given artistic and literal dignity to the word merde. The link between anality and art, as the equation of excrements with gold, is a leitmotiv of the psychoanalytic movement (and Carl G. Jung could have been a point of reference for Manzoni). Manzoni's main innovation to this topic is a reflection on the role of the artist's body in contemporary art.