Volume I, Number 3, Spring 2005

 

EXCREMENT AS ART


Reading about Andres Serrano's image of a crucifix in a jar of urine as art and when painter Chris Ofili won England's $35,000 Turner Prize in 1998 for some paintings spruced up with elephant dung I was motivated to continue showing examples of what the art world seems to consider some of the finest art and why fine artists continue to be ignored/disrespected by the general public.

The following are some more snippets from recent "News of the Weird" by Chuck Shepard. He collects news items from around the world. Many of the items he has published in his syndicated column are about art, usually under the heading of Great Art!

"A survey of 500 arts experts, conducted in November (2004) by the sponsor of Britain's prestigious Turner Prize, named as the most influential work of modern art (beating out two works by Picasso) Marcel Duchamp's 'Fountain,' which is merely a white porcelain urinal."

"From time to time News of the Weird has reported on the fluctuating value of the late Italian artist Piero Manzoni's personal feces, which he canned in 1961, 30 grams at a time in 90 tins, as art objects (though, over the years, 45 have reportedly explode). Their price to collectors has varied from about $28,000 for a tin in 1998 to $75,000 in 1993. In June 2002, the Tate Gallery n London excitedly announced it had purchased tin number 004 for about $38,000. (The price of gold at that time was a little over $300.)" Note: Go to Archives: http://www.artistsezine.com/Archives/Ezine1/WhyArtists1.htm to see our article referencing this purchase and its implications.

"The Golden Tower Project, an installation by Seattle artists at this year's Burning Man festival, consisted of 400 jars of urine from other artists, stacked and electroluminescently lighted ('gorgeous,' 'faintly blue and gold,' 'warm, kind of like biological stained glass,' according to Seattle's The Stranger weekly). (In 1993, News of the Weird reported that New York City artist Todd Alden had asked 400 art collectors worldwide to send him samples of their feces so he could offer them for sale in personalized tins. Said Alden, 'Scatology is emerging as an increasingly significant part of artistic inquiry in the 1990's.)"

Here is an interesting selection from the Internet:

Elephant Dung Artist Scoops Up 1998 Turner Prize
By Philippe Broad

"LONDON, 3 December 1998 - The UK's important Turner Prize has gone this year to 30-year-old British painter of Nigerian origin, Chris Ofili. Organized by the Tate Gallery in London, the £20,000 ($35,000) prize, sponsored by Channel 4, was presented by agnès b., clothes designer and gallery owner.

Best known for his paintings using elephant dung, Ofili remarked during a radio interview at the award ceremony that the important thing was to know whether art was 'good art or bad art' and not whether it contained elephant dung. He is, nonetheless, reported to have used this ingredient in all his works so far (almost a guarantee of authenticity), the original smuggled in from Africa, with subsequent needs coming from London's Zoo and dried in an airing cupboard. Quite what effects the ingredient will have on the longevity of Ofili's works will come to light in due course."

Joel Miller "Random Fire" © 1999 WorldNetDaily.com

"Modern art is problematic. When you see some art that looks like a pile of manure, are you supposed to be moved? Feel the emotions of the artist? Pinch your nose? I mean, what if the piece of art really is manure, literally?

… Painter Chris Ofili won England's 20,000-pound Turner Prize in 1998 for some paintings spruced up with elephant dung from the London Zoo… Other folks aren't taking Ofili-style art so well either. In December 1998, Reuters reported that Ray Hutchins, a 'professional illustrator, has shown the British art world what he thinks of the dried elephant dung-wielding painter who won Britain's top art prize,' the aforementioned Turner Prize captured by Ofili. How did he show the world? The 66-year-old man dumped a wheelbarrow full of bovine scat on the steps of London's Tate Gallery, where Ofili was then displaying his award-winning 'art.'"

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Anything Goes:
The Art Crap Flaps

by D. Marty Lasley, © 2000

"Feces happens! Especially in pop culture and contemporary 'art.' In the mid-80s performance art emerged and one of its pioneers, Karen Finley, in an aesthetically sensitive moment, would take a dump in a bowl and have another very dedicated "artist" eat it. Predictably, her artistic expression was subsidized by the NEA with federal tax dollars. Again, predictably that funding was rescinded when a big stink was raised about the nature of her art. She became embroiled in a lawsuit that wound up in the United States Supreme Court.

The story I'm about to relate pushes the use of human excrement in art issue right off the table. The San Francisco Weekly reported in its February 23, 2000 issue that a student at the San Francisco Art Institute carried out a "controversial" performance art piece on campus before an instructor and fellow students in which a volunteer from the audience participated.

The student bound his volunteer assistant and then the engaged in oral sex with each other, enemas were then exchanged, and feces were smeared, swiped, sampled and swapped. Let's just leave the description at that, but note the whole thing was videotaped… This whole incident is easily gigged for its incredible lack of moral or artistic judgment and lack of basic "average bear" intelligence, but what I found interesting was the inability of anyone connected with the school to explain why the entire performance was objectionable beyond the fact that the principles of "safe sex" were not followed. The dean and faculty clearly lead us to believe that had the student had the foresight to remember to bring and use condoms, the show would have been OK.

It's at this point that the pretentiousness snobbery of the bohemian art world crashes in upon itself. The sole criteria for good performance art is the level of shock inflicted upon an audience. The art student's work was masterful because he shocked the @#$%* out of the cro-magnon middle class."

FRANKFURT (Reuters)

"German art lovers are turning up their noses at an abstract picture painted with the artist's own feces.

The painting, on display at Frankfurt's Museum of Modern Art, depicts brown, egg-like shapes surrounded by an off-white line. It doesn't smell because it is coated with resin, German tabloid daily newspaper Bild reported.

The 35-year-old artist, Anton Henning, said he had eaten a large meal to give himself sufficient material for the painting."

"It was created in 1995 after I enjoyed a meal of Koenigsberg dumplings, mustard gherkins, beetroot, potatoes, watermelon and lemon juice, Rheingau riesling wine and a big brownie," he told the paper.

Henning guarantees that he did not need to dilute his feces in order to complete his oeuvre.

The picture has suffered a mixed reception. "Yuk, it really makes me want to throw up," one 50-year-old woman told the newspaper.

"It's sick," said a 29-year-old man.

"The colors are fantastic," countered another 50-year-old woman who viewed the painting. "I'd find a space for that in my home."

Editorial Commentary by Dennis Paul Batt

I feel the previous examples of art and the quality of judgment of those who decide what is considered art speak for themselves.

 

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