The Artist’s Shit

March 21, 2009

Piero Manzoni (1933-1963) is an Italian artist best known for his ironic conceptual art that question the nature of the art object. Instead of using general artistic materials he has used his body as an artwork and the outcomes of the transfigured body has become worth-the-same-weight-of-gold relics.

In 1961, ninety cans of “Merda d’artista” (“Artist’s Shit, content 30 gr., freshly preserved, produced and tinned”) were exhibited in a gallery. Manzoni calculated the value of the ninety cans – all numbered, each with a net weight of thirty grams – in accordance with the daily exchange rates for gold. These “works of art” were sold out in no time and are predicted to be worth much more than their primary cost today.


Other than the “Merda d’Artista” (Artist’s Shit) project, “Fiato d’Artista” (Artist’s Breath; balloons filled by Manzoni’s Breath) project and the only planned -but not “produced”- “Sangue d’Artista” (Artist’s Blood) project underlined the role of artists body within the concept of art. Turned artist’s being into a “magic body” which turns everything within touch into a work of “art”.


In 1960, took place in Milan, an “exhibition of edible exhibits”: the consumption of dynamic art by the art-devouring public. According to this project Manzoni boiled some eggs, marked them with his fingerprint and offered them to the visitors to eat. If the artwork does not exist anymore and leaves no messages behind, the audience turns out to be much more than a spectator. In this case, having eaten the fingerprint-signed eggs, the visitors became a work of art as well; merging with the tracks of the artist and relics of his artistic body.


Lastly in April 1961, Manzoni began to sign people at a gallery of Rome, changing them into works of art. His “Sculture Viventi” (Living Sculptures) were completed by a declaration of authenticity. In this project; a red stamp declared the subject was a whole work of art for life, a yellow stamp limited the artistic status to a body part, a green stamp meant the individual signed was a work of art under certain circumstances only (such as sleeping etc.) and finally a purple stamp on the receipt meant that this service was paid for.

Another attempt of Manzoni’s to transform a human body into a “living sculpture” was the “Base Magica” (Magic Base) project. In this view, as long as one stand on the plinth he/she/it is a work of art. Finally “Socle du Monde” (an upside down magic base made of iron) concluded this problem of transforming human bodies into works of art; for now the earth was standing upon the upside-down magic base, everything upon it has transformed into a work of art.


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One Response to “The Artist’s Shit”

  1. […] a yellow stamp limited the artistic status to a body part, a green stamp meant t… source: The Artist’s Shit, The […]

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