Artists Shit


The history of art is an itinerant process, where continuing reassessment , correction and variation leads us to a place where we can feel hung out to dry. We can become exposed and find ourselves intellectually and emotionally naked, unsure if we should laugh or cry. We are taken to a place where humour becomes painful as it take us beyond the norm of day to dayness and touches truth. From Dada to Fluxus, from conceptual art to the nineties generation humour has been at the core of art, as both a visual strategy, a philosophical process and a stance. Something sometimes bazar but honest in a post truth era. 

In December 1961 , Piero Manzoni, an Italian artist wrote a letter to his friend Ben Vautier : “ I should like all artists to sell their fingerprints, or else stage competitions to see who can draw the longest line or sell their shit in tins”. He continued ‘ “ If collectors want something intimate, really personal to the artist, there’s the artists own shit that is really his”. Manzoni then went on to sell cans of his own excrement, valued gram for gram at the price of gold, at that time $37. Thus an established market in Artist’s feces was set . There is some debate if the cans produced by Manzoni actually do genuinely contain the excrement of the artist, the artist’s friend at the time insists they contain only plaster. However had you invested $37 dollars in 1961 today you could have an asset valued at £97,000. While historic gains are never a guarantee of future value a 2,500 % increase in value is of some note .

For reasons not explored until this point in history although many artists have used excrement, both human and non human, to create artworks, no other artist took Manzoni at his word and followed his example of producing cans of bodily waste. Maybe the inspiration to visit this topic has been lacking or missing . However with the apparent divorce of the European Union a British artist , Orson Kartt is producing art with similar content, Genuine British Artist’s shit “Accept no Foreign substitution”, he says, “British artist’s Shit is the very best available” . 

Do these artworks represent a two fingered salute and simultaneous tribute to the Italian artist Piero Manzoni? Or simply a statement about British artistic identity ?   They are available from the 29th March 2019, the date set for the EU exit . Is this the ultimate commemoration / celebration of Britain leaving the Uk ?





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