Today was pick-up Meghan day: my four hour round trip to bring my daughter home from the University of Guelph. I know my daughter loves us but the main purpose of the weekend visit is the “boyfriend”. But, that is a whole other story.
As is my pattern, I listen to CBC Radio (Canadian Public Radio) while I’m driving. One of my favorite programs is THE Q hosted by Jian Gomeshi. This is a current affairs show that focuses on the arts. On this beautiful sunny day my thoughts were wandering when I suddenly heard the words “feces” and “art” in the same sentence.
The next 20 minutes had me laughing so hard I nearly had to pull over to the shoulder.
You see, there is this internationally known artist from Belgium called Wim Dolvoye. He produces a lot of interesting art pieces (tattooed pigs), and some sculptures which are very technological and bizarre. The piece he was talking about was his infamous “CLOACA”; a huge machine that “digests”, much like the human digestive system and produces (his words) “shit.” The machine is fed meals and at the end of the day THE CLOACA produces a “sausage-like” turd, which is then packed by weight and sold to art collectors. The package is signed by the artist.
The first CLOACA machine was exhibited at the Muhka (Museum of Contemporary Art in Antwerp) in 2000. The machine was “fed” an exquisite meal twice a day, and proceeded to pinch out a loaf of feces at the other end. “Ya, my art makes shit!”, proclaims Wim Dolvoye.
Here are a few of the highlights from this interview, paraphrased by me, of course.
JIAN: “What was your purpose for creating the CLOACA and how do you see it as art?”
WIM: “Vell, I wanted to build something that really does nothing. You know, has no purpose at all. An entirely useless machine! Most art is useless, you see.”
What influenced Dolvoye’s artistist expression? Well, he claims that it was Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory that provided his motivation. Makes sense to me. Indeed, the CLOACA logo is very similar in appearance to that of the Ford Motor Company. Dovoye admits this similarity with the suggestion that the logo implies that “shit” is produced on most assembly lines. And, his CLOACA, does just that, produces shit.
JIAM: “So what does the art community think of this work?”
WIM: “Most people believe that modern art is crap. My CLOACA, as an art piece confirms that, because it simply makes “shit”. So if art is crap, my piece is full of “shit”.”
JIAM: “I think you’d better use the word “poop”!”
WIM: “Ah, is diss word “poop”better than “shit”?”
JIAM: “Well we may have children listening to this broadcast.”
WIM: “Well then “poop” it is!”
I love this. Here we have an artist with a wicked sense of humor. He pokes fun at the institution of art as well as art collecting. (Remember the freeze dried turd bags) How endearing is this?
JIAN: “So what comes out is like human feces?”
WIM: “Ya, it’s good “shit”. Oh, sorry I meant “poop”.
What is the Canadian connection? Well, one of his CLOACAS is coming to an art gallery in Montreal at a cost of $30 000. Of course, some of the public is outraged that this kind of money is being spent on something that produces “feces”. Hell, I’m not surprised. We have any number of people, politicians and organizations that create “shit” at no cost to any of us. Why spend money on a mechanical “shitter”?
WIM: “Vell, they can make the money back by charging admission or selling the freeze dried product. You can take a piece of the art home with you, see.”
But really, Wim Dovoye’s tongue-in-cheek artistic expression makes total sense: a piece of art, that is a piece of crap, which in turn produces “shit” is a piece of genius, don’t you agree.
So, if you are so inclined, take this to heart. When you’re sitting there contemplating the world’s problems you might just be sitting on a gold mine. Scoop that poop, freeze dry it and package it carefully. The very act of adding your signature will make that turd an artistic masterpiece. You can list it on EBAY as “Exquisite Excrement”.
You see it’s true: SHIT HAPPENS!