Louisiana Channel: Art (185 of 193)
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“I could be free after Manzoni’s shit can.” Watch the controversial artist Wim Delvoye on how artist Piero Manzoni paved the way for his installation that turns food into faeces, and how this machine questions human identity by “stealing our most intimate activity.”

Delvoye feels that the things Italian artist Piero Manzoni (b.1933-d.1963) has done have not only been an inspiration but also a legitimation for the Belgian artist: “Just knowing that this guy got away with canning his own shit into the art world and let it pass as an art piece, that legitimizes all my activities.” Though people like to compare Delvoye’s ‘Cloaca’ – a large installation that turns food into faeces – to Manzoni’s canned shit ‘Artist’s Shit’ (1961), he feels that there is a great difference between the two. Delvoye considers Manzoni a typical 19th-century artist: “He took something from himself – his breath or his shit – and he said: Look I’m an artist, and because I’m an artist, this is art too. This is what I created, so this shit is art.” By canning shit, Manzoni is also referring to an industrial revolution of the early 20th century, whereas Delvoye’s machine represents a later industrial revolution – that of bio-engineering. In ‘Cloaca’ it is a machine rather than a human being that creates the faeces, reflecting how the role of human beings is rapidly changing. In consequence, Delvoye feels that his approach is less “romantic” than Manzoni’s: “I just took what I needed from him, and I went on in a different way.” 

Wim Delvoye (b. 1965) is a Belgian neo-conceptual artist. He is known for his inventive and frequently shocking projects, which are often focused on the body. One of these works is the digestive machine ‘Cloaca’ (2000-2010). Commenting on the Belgians’ love of fine dining, ‘Cloaca’ is a large installation that turns food into faeces, allowing Delvoye to explore the digestive process In the large mechanism, food begins at a long, transparent bowl, travels through a number of machine-like assembly stations, and ends in a hard matter which is separated from liquid through a cylinder. He then collects and sells the output, suspended in small jars of resin. Delvoye has exhibited worldwide at venues such as MUDAM in Luxembourg, The Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts in Moscow, Gallery Hyundai in Seoul, Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, Museum Kunst-Palast in Dusseldorf, The Power Plant in Toronto, Centre Georges Pompidou and Musée du Louvre in Paris. His work has also been included in major group exhibitions such as the Venice Biennale and the Shanghai Biennale. For more see:

Wim Delvoye was interviewed by Rasmus Quistgaard at Herning Museum of Contemporary Art in Herning, Denmark in April 2017. 

Camera: Rasmus Quistaard

Produced and edited by: Kasper Bech Dyg  

Copyright: Louisiana Channel, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2018

Supported by Nordea-fonden


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