Human Shit


Performing Mascot, duration variable.

Commissioned for the Kyneton Contemporary Art Triennial.
Kyneton, Victoria Australia.

Photo: Jacqui Shelton

Does a clown’s shit smell funny?

Mr Manzoni once told his son that his work was shit. Some time later, Piero put me in a can and sealed the lid. You couldn’t see me but you knew I was there. History has canonized me -and my being in that can, as a bit of a piss-take. The joke of a provocateur. But I suspect Piero’s shit was more about an intimate humility than anything else.

And what’s so wrong with shit anyway?

Within a humanistic framework, they say that shit is thought of as disgusting, abhorrent and uncouth, because, like porn, it reminds humankind of its inescapable animal nature. It reminds you of your animalness.

I remember when Wallinger dressed up as an animal. A bear actually. He roamed the Neue Nationalgalerie by night, performing like an animal performs in their enclosure. A kind of self-appointed mascot to the city, but without obvious motive or campaign. What happens to mascots when they die?

The shit costume is an obvious disguise, I know. It’s actually me in there, beneath the brown, meandering aimlessly, self-promoting, self-effacing, both there and not there, a walking smiling waving Artist’s shit. A mascot without obvious motive or campaign. And with what to do all day -don’t you have a job? Oh to be an animal!

Cattelan recently came out of retirement and made a solid gold toilet for the Guggenheim. A toilet inside of a toilet. People lined up to take photos of me in his gold bowl. Then they shared me on the internet. Nuggets slowly orbiting each other in the watery milieu.

These days even our most intimate selves, formerly kept offstage, are subject to the hypervisibility and omnipresence of capital. I remember Debord said a while back that there remains nothing, in culture or in nature, that hasn’t been transformed and polluted according to the means and interests of modern industry. One can’t shit on company time anymore: Alas it’s all company time.

Oh and why does the poop emoji have eyes and a mouth? Emoji is Japanese for picture-character. It’s resemblance to emotion is purely coincidental. My guess is that the face makes shit more palatable, more kitsch. Kitsch makes shit bearable: It excludes from its purview the obscenities of being human.

You can’t polish a turd, but you can put a bow tie on it.