Tin can and printed paper
10.05.07 | 24.09.07
Merda d’artista (n.63)
Milan, Archivio Opera Manzoni
On display from 2007 to 2012 (February)
In August 1961 Manzoni canned and exhibited his own excrement in 90 sealed cans, to which he applied a label in four languages (Italian, French, English, German) indicating its contents. It read: '"Artist's Shit", contents 30gr net freshly preserved, produced and tinned in May 1961.' Produced as a special edition or a multiple in ninety copies, numbered and signed by the artist, the cans of Artist’s Shit were presented to the public for the first time at the Galleria Pescetto of Albisola Marina and put on sale at the price of the equivalent of their weight in gold.
Quite apart from the provocation implicit in the choice of the quintessential form of “waste” as an art material, Manzoni’s aim was to create a work that spoke of art and its consumption, taking to an extreme the principles embodied the year before in his performance titled Consumption of Art, Dynamics of the Public Devouring Art, in which he invited the public to eat the eggs he had stamped with his thumb print. After liberating art from the subjectivity of the typical tachiste artist, Manzoni went so far as to make his own body, including its excrement, a creative instrument for producing signs and traces to be used in art. In the consumer climate of the postwar boom years, he offered it as a new product to be launched on the market, adapting it to mass production while also playing, not without irony, on the concealment of the object by packaging. This interest in packaging, already present in the Lines and the kit supplied with his Bodies of air, was also reflected in a series of Achromes produced using brown paper or newspaper and string to form a true package, sealed with red wax and closed by a cord with a metal seal bearing the inscription “Piero Manzoni.” If Andy Warhol worked on the boundaries between high art and mass culture with his tins of Campbell’s soup and Brillo soap pads, articulating the form/content relationship in favor of the former, to Manzoni the crucial element was instead the content and its specific materiality. The content was hidden, as well as disgusting, but the container provided an accurate description. In this way the artist parodied the blind trust in consumer products whose real contents are unknown as well as the anti-modernist prejudices of the general public (as Duchamp had done with his celebrated Urinal). At the same time it advanced a critique of the demand for consumer art which made anything bearing the artist’s signature valuable.
Manzoni was born in Soncino, in the province of Cremona, on July 13th 1933, of counts Meroni Manzoni di Chiosca and Poggiolo. He studied in Milan at the Leone XIII classical ...
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