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Artwork: 30 years of crap
Information assembled by Bob Dawson


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The urinal of the century
December 2, 2004

A porcelain urinal ripped off the wall of the men’s room in a bar in 1917 has been voted the most influential work of art of the 20th Century.   In a survey of 500 leaders of the art world, Marcel Duchamp’s “Fountain” beat out works by such icons as Picasso and Matisse.

The urinal of the century

Duchamp was a skilled artist, but his art was not well received by the “Academy”, the critics, the curators, the in-crowd. So Duchamp, tired of having his artwork urinated on, gave the critics something to urinate in. He turned the urinal upside down, signed it messily with a fictitious name (“R. Mutt 1917”) and submitted it to an art show in New York City.

One legend says that Duchamp found the urinal in a dump; another says he actually ripped it off the wall in the men’s washroom of a tavern, betting his drunken friends that with this work of art, he would finally get some attention.

He was right.   It caused an outrage. Duchamp tried other “works of art” from the dump and from second-hand stores; items such as a used bicycle wheel, a hat rack, a coat rack, a snow shovel, a comb; but none of them got attention like the pissoir.

Marcel Duchamp made himself a famous man in art history, by making a mockery of the old art Academy. The new art “Academy” – the informal network of critics, curators, art professors, gallery owners, art dealers; the in-crowd – declared his garbage-dump urinal to be the most influential work of art of the century.


But teacher, how can a urinal be voted the best work of art of the century?

Now class, you are not paying attention. They did not say it was the best artwork; they did not even say it was good. They said it was the most influential.
Duchamp’s success set the rules for modern art:

- Quality does not matter. What matters is influence.

- Art requires no skill, no craft, no talent, no hard work.

- The art history of Western civilization should be ignored.

- Above all, cause an outrage. Be controversial.

- The artist does not necessarily have to actually make any art. Duchamp did not make the urinal – it was a mass-produced, manufactured item that he found.

- The job of the artist is to have an idea. He had the idea of declaring a urinal to be art. He outsourced the actual work, but he had the concept.

- Ugly is better than beautiful.

- Make up a philosophy to pretend that your art has some sort of deep meaning. In Duchamp’s case, he proclaimed that “It is art because I say it is.” and he expressed his opposition to beauty, calling it “a mere flutter of the retina.” The artist must lecture the audience.

- Gain favour with the professors and art commentators by following the Marxist dogma that all art is political. Beautiful art is used by the repressive regime to turn the people’s gaze away from injustice. How can you allow beauty to deceive the masses about the ugliness of the capitalist regime? Make ugly art, make aggressive art, make political statements denouncing the System. The political duty of the artist is to create disgust and disdain for the cultural traditions of Western history.

- You can get away with it if you keep a straight face.

- The word “artist” is sometimes preceded by the word “con.”

- Conceptual art is a game of “Can you top this?” In traditional bourgeois art, van Gogh can make any number of paintings; Michelangelo can make any number of sculptures. But you cannot present another urinal to an art show today, because that’s Duchamp’s gig. The art critics have been there, seen that. One artist hung a flush toilet from the ceiling of a large empty room, and it was applauded as a variation of the theme, and as a tribute to Duchamp’s genius. But then, the next artist in line could present neither a urinal, nor a flush toilet. That had already been done. The next item always has to be more outrageous than the last.

The success of Duchamp’s urinal liberated artists from tedious constraints, such as talent, skill, and work. Once urinal art was accepted, nothing could be refused. Duchamp was a visionary – he saw the future, and it stank.

30 years of crap
June, 2003

Ottawa, Canada.   The Saw Gallery, operating with a $72,000 grant from Canada’s national government, opened a five-week show called Scatalogue: 30 Years of Crap in Contemporary Art.

More than 25 Canadian and international artists are showing artwork that is about, or is made of, excrement.  

One of the international attractions of the show is Belgium's Wim Delvoye, who recently sold out his edition of freeze-dried, vacuum-packed "completely biologically correct" excrement at $1,500 (U.S.) per baggie. In this case, the artist actually made the artwork himself – it is certified as being his own excrement, fully digested. Critics should note that this work is derivative, in fact it is copy-cat art. Another artist sold cans of his excrement at much higher prices several years earlier, saying that he wanted to prove that crap is more valuable than gold, as long as it is the crap of the artistic elite. And collectors bought it – the cans of crap sold out, at a price per ounce higher than gold. In the art world, crap is king.

The press release for the "living, interactive archive" says the exhibition of crap is "a critique of  the conservatism of the traditional galleries” and “assails the bourgeois art world as well.”

"Fascism, anti-semitism, sexism, homophobia, racism, consumerism and globalization are issues tackled by some of the artists," said the Scatalogue catalogue.

Notice how it is the job of the artist to lecture everyone on the correct political beliefs. Notice how the artists claim to live up to higher standards of tolerance and fairness.

In the exhibit, there is a performance video of actors using public toilets; there are genuine soiled trousers hanging on the wall; there is a wooden statue of former Conservative Prime Minister Brian Mulroney holding a turd in his outstretched hand. This profound work was carved by aboriginal artist Ron Noganosh and is entitled The Same Old Shit, striking a powerful blow against fascism and globalization. (Mulroney was conservative, therefore fascist, and he legislated the Free Trade Agreement with the fascist Americans, therefore globalist).

More intellectually challenging is the work of Gilbert and George of London: posters showing bright yellow turds floating above two gay artists – whose open mouths are also bright yellow, hungry to swallow the yellow turds.  If you don’t buy this kind of art and put it on your living room wall, you are homophobic. You are probably sexist too. You need to be re-educated.

The political message of David Diviney’s “Moon Floss” is more obscure, and no university art professors were on hand to explain it to the proletariat.   It consists of a two-legged chair, and the chair is wearing a pair of white underpants that are overflowing with brown material. Okay, so the chair crapped its pants, but why is the chair wearing pants? Oh my, oh my, what does it all mean? Oh, I forgot, you are supposed to be disgusted and perplexed, or amazed or shocked. That’s what art is for. To provoke. To disgust. To get a reaction. Until fascism, racism, homophobia, etc., are vanquished. Until that day, ugly is king. Down with the bourgeoisie and their running dog lackeys!

Then there are the actual khaki pants worn by Calgary 's Mikiki and Don Simmons, a pair of performance artists who thought they'd make a statement by visiting the staid Glenbow Museum after eating a mess of laxatives. They crapped their pants in the bourgeois Glenbow Museum – the kind of reactionary place that would show paintings by Emily Carr or A.Y. Jackson -- and then they put their stinking soiled pants on display in the avant-garde art gallery. Do you get it? The sheer brilliance of it? They crapped in the fascist art gallery AND displayed their crapped pants in the revolutionary art gallery. AND at taxpayer’s expense! A triple blow against the reactionary art of the bourgeoisie!

The gallery manager’s critique of the whole show? “This really controversial exhibition is really about the human condition.”

Yeah, really. The human condition of wanting to shock Mommy and Daddy while still living off their trust fund.

We would like to thank the Canada Council for the Arts for paying 75% of the costs of operating this gallery, and the City of Ottawa for providing the space. Without your generous support, we could not glorify 30 years of crap as the legacy of an entire generation of artists.

Marcel Duchamp is dead, but his urinal stinks on and on.

Artist regrets urinating on stage
Dec 16, 2004

Toronto , Canada - Keith Cole, a gay performance artist, filmmaker and theatre publicist, has issued an apology for his behaviour on stage at a local fundraiser.   In a letter to the organizers, he apologizes for comments that were “sexist, racist, homophobic, class-ist, anti-Semitic, size-ist, age-ist,” with a “distasteful, disrespectful and illegal act of public urination on stage.”

Nonetheless, Cole, insists that his comments—which ranged from describing himself as a “big fat faggot with gingivitis” to describing a performance by an Asian drag act as a “surprise attack just like Pearl Harbor” to berating a friend in the front row for “being all Niggerish”—were part of an act that incorporates tongue-in-cheek racial and homophobic slurs. “We live in a racist and homophobic society so that’s my way of saying ‘deal with it’ instead of pretending it doesn’t exist.”

Pretending that what doesn’t exist? Vulgar exhibitionists who get on stage and urinate in the name of promoting acceptance of gays? Oh, we know they exist.

Artist Selling His Snot Ball For $20K
December 31, 2004

LONDON , England -- A London artist who collected mucus from his nose for two years and displayed the resulting ball of snot at four separate art exhibitions is now ready to part with his prized possession -- for $20,000.

James Robert Ford’s brussels sprout-sized “Bogey Ball” now rests in a glass case on a shelf in his apartment, but he is seeking an art collector to take possession of it.

In Ford’s words, “It’s a physical record of all the different places I have been and people I’ve met.”

I’m sure the people you have met really appreciate getting the credit.

The urinal, the crap gallery, the urination on stage, artist’s snot for sale: the art of gross bodily functions liberates us all from sexism, racism, fascism and all the other isms except Marxism.  But doesn’t this art also leave you feeling like taking a shower, cleaning the place up, scrubbing the bathroom, taking out the garbage?

The garbagemen take out the garbage

It’s what garbagemen do. They take out the garbage. And from years and years of experience and hard work, they know garbage when they see it. They know what garbage looks like, they know what it smells like, they know where it comes from, and they know where it’s going.   They are garbagemen, and they are good at what they do.

January 19, 2005
Frankfurt, Germany –  Three German garbagemen are being reprimanded and sent to take an Art Appreciation Course after taking down and incinerating a sculpture that they believed to be garbage.   They mistakenly destroyed part of a city-wide exhibition of installations entitled “Not Inside But Outside.”  The sculpture was one of ten sculptures placed all around Frankfurt.

The artist, Michael Beutler, said that his sculpture, made of pieces of yellow plastic and construction materials, was “between abstraction and something figurative – you could see kind of a snake, or something, in it.”

The garbagemen did not see the kind of snake, or something, in it.   They had been sent to clean up the street, and they saw garbage.

The city decided not to fire the garbagemen, but to re-educate them in Art Appreciation Class in the same art school where Beutler learned to be an artist. “It’s a very good school,” Beutler said.

Why is it that garbagemen are sent to re-education camp to recognize art when they see it, but the “artists” are not re-educated to recognize garbage when they see it?

London , England
A cleaning woman at London ’s prestigious Tate Britain modern art gallery threw away part of an artwork, because she thought it was trash. The transparent bag, full of old newspapers, cardboard and small pieces of torn paper– was part of a work by Gustav Metzger called “Recreation Of First Public Demonstration Of Auto-Destructive Art”. The bag was on the floor next to a sheet of nylon that had been spattered with acid, and a metal sculpture on a table, when the cleaning woman tossed it out with the trash, believing it to be a garbage bag that had been left for her to remove.

She really can’t be blamed. It was supposed to be “Auto-Destructive Art”. It wasn’t auto-destructing so she just helped out a bit. Give that cleaning woman a government grant for performance art.

London , England - A janitor at the Eyestorm gallery in London tossed out a collection of coffee cups, ashtrays, and beer bottles, which turned out to be the work of Damien Hirst, one of the highest paid artists in the world.

Feb. 16, 2005
Glasgow , Scotland – A group of Glasgow cleaners, sent to clean up the Arches following the National Review of Live Art festival the night before, scrubbed a bathroom from top to bottom without knowing they were wiping away an artwork.

The cleaning crew were shocked to see the mess in the toilets. There was soap stuck to the walls, toilet paper littering the floor, brown stains on the tiles, and stickers saying “Now wash out your mouth”.

Georgie Fowler, cleaning and services manager, said she was very annoyed by the mess. “I was worried for health and safety. It was such a mess.”

The mess that got scrubbed away was a work by Angela Bartram, a visual artist who specializes in “extreme bodily functions.”  Art patrons are invited into the toilets, where Bartram shows her audience “dysfunctional and impolite uses of the mouth.”    She spits, dribbles, licks, chokes and chews soap in a series of bizarre rituals.

Kirston Innes, spokeswoman for the Arches, issued a statement saying that “The Arches is proud of our track record in supporting new artistic talent and this incident is certainly not representative of our attitude towards the artist.   This was an honest mistake.”

Or let’s just say the cleaning woman was honest; the artist was a mistake.

But it’s the cleaning woman who got fired.   It’s the artist who got invited for repeat performances and applause.

There is a legend that when van Gogh died, his landlady cleaned out his room, and threw his clothing, his mattress, and stacks of his paintings into a bonfire in the yard. She was in a hurry to rent the room to someone new, someone who would actually pay the rent on time.   She destroyed beauty, she destroyed some of van Gogh’s final creations, she committed a dreadful offence against culture.   And it is hard to imagine that she could look at his paintings and not see the beauty, the talent, the value.   She destroyed great art. She must have been a hard and bitter person.

But now, the situation has changed.   When the garbageman or the cleaning lady scrub away what appears to be filth and junk, it’s hard to blame them for not recognizing that filth and junk have been declared to be art. Maybe, just maybe, it actually is filth and junk.

Rotten Food Art

New York – An artist best known for decorative cheese has broadened his palette – or palate – to ham.

Cosimo Cavallero, who once sprayed a New York hotel room with melted mozzarella, has covered a bed in processed ham. “I feel like I am back in my mother’s deli,” the Montreal-raised artist said.

His installation in a street-level gallery space of the Roger Smith Hotel in midtown Manhattan involved slicing 140 kilograms of ham and tossing the meat atop a four-poster bed.

Cavallaro said his cheese period ended two years ago, after he sprayed an entire house with melted cheese.

Here’s an artist who at least has a sense of humour about the stupidity of his own art. “His cheese period ended two years ago.”   Like Duchamp, he is pulling your leg. He does not seem to be making any overt political claims. When Cavallero took a grand piano into a vacant lot and set it on fire, for example, he did not say that he was denouncing American fascism. His explanation was simply that he was angry at not being able to play music.

Other food art makes direct political statements. For instance, “Vanitas: Flesh Dress for an Albino Anorectic ” by Jana Sterbak, which was once shown at Canada’s National Gallery in Ottawa and has toured extensively in the United States and Europe, is said to be about feminism, about men objectifying women as objects of desire, and treating them like pieces of meat.

The Flesh Dress is a dressmaker’s dummy covered in 60 pounds of prime beef. At the beginning of the exhibition the meat is red and juicy and fresh. As the days go by, it changes colour and begins to smell bad and it rots and falls off, and art patrons hold their noses because of the repulsive stench. And then the artist comes and throws away the old meat and puts on a fresh 60 pounds of flank steak.

Has there ever been art so profound? This artist is the Michelangelo of Meat. We learn, to our horror and disgust, that all is not right with the world, that in our male-dominated capitalist complacency, we have failed, failed miserably, to bring justice to the world. This art teaches us what we need to know: that women are treated like meat, women’s bodies are objectified, men say “She’s a good piece (of meat).” And when the meat is fresh, men approach; when it is old, they turn away. And then the meat gets replaced by fresh meat, and so the cycle of patriarchal oppression continues. This profound fusion of politics, philosophy, sociology, art, and the meat market would never, never have been possible in the time of Renoir or Gauguin or any of the other dead white males who served up images of women’s bodies as beautiful, as mere objects to be owned and dominated by the repressive patriarchy. Meat is murder!

How about tortilla art? A butchered donkey covered in tortillas, demonstrating the subjugation of Third World farmers by globalization, fascist capitalism and homophobia? Poutine art, showing English Canada’s colonial repression of Quebecois culture?

Food Art has a lot going for it; perhaps more than Toilet Art.   There are just so many kinds of food to work with; whereas crap always looks and smells the same.

Dead Corpse Art

Okay, so how can you beat this? Toilet Art has gone about as far as it can go.   Food Art could still have a lot of variations – no one has done a major piece with mashed potatoes and green peas yet.   But Food Art is slightly bourgeois.   It makes some people hungry, and it is unfair to all the starving people in Bolivia or Somalia or whatever that country is where McDonald’s uses all the land for beef cattle and the proletariat have no land for their organic turnip juice production. That country where Che rode the motorcycle and everybody is repressed by the running-dog lackeys of the capitalist pigs. Ecuador, was it? Food Art is so… so arriere-garde. So Wal-Mart Groceries.

So what can an artist do to be more repulsive than the Toilet Art and Food Art?

How about Dead Corpse Art?

The Dead Shark
Dec. 23, 2004

London , England – A dead shark in a tank of formaldehyde, a work of art by Damien Hirst has broken the world record sale price for a work by a living artist.   Art collector and advertising mogul Charles Saatchi, who now wants to invest his money in oil paintings, sold the 14 foot dead tiger shark for $12 million U.S. The artwork – titled “The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living” – was sold to US billionaire hedge fund manager Steve Cohen.

Last year, Saatchi sold 12 of Hirst’s works for $15 million, including the sliced pig and the sliced sheep, both preserved in tanks of formaldehyde, and a glass cabinet containing butchered cow organs.

A controversy has arisen about the dead shark. Hirst used a formaldehyde solution that is too weak, and did not know that to preserve an animal that large, formaldehyde must be injected deep into the corpse. The shark is now beginning to rot from the inside out, and the liquid has turned murky.

The curator of fish at the Natural History Museum has stated that the shark could be preserved with better methods, but the artist does not want anyone interfering with his vision. Hirst said “They actually thought I was using formaldehyde to preserve an artwork for posterity, when in reality I use it to communicate an idea.”

The shark has deteriorated noticeable in recent years and the skin is beginning to rot.

Can you top that? Just as Duchamp did not make the urinal, Hirst did not catch the shark. These are men of ideas. They don’t actually have to make anything; just communicate an idea – in this case, an idea about the fierce deadly shark being itself dead and no longer dangerous and rotting away in a fish tank in a billionaire’s mansion. Kudos to the artist for not letting them take action to stop the shark from rotting away. It is, after all, a dead shark, so why should it not rot away?   That’s all part of the artist’s vision.

An excellent prank, to get a guy to pay $12 million for a hunk of dead meat that is going to stink up his living room as it rots. Way to go, dude!! Awesome!! (High fives the artist.)

How do you top that? What is the next artist going to do? Can’t do the urinal – it’s already been done. Crap your pants in a museum – already been done. Dead shark in a tank – been done. But the dead shark brought in the most money, whereas the toilet and crap doesn’t sell so well. So we need something along the lines of the dead shark.   Think, everybody, think.   Oh, I know. How about a dead child? Raped and murdered? Decaying? Now that’s progressive art.

Girl’s murder video “tasteless”
July 4, 2003

Australia -   Australians are queuing to see a controversial nude video show about the murder of a young girl. The Pentimento exhibition in Federation Square was yesterday besieged by curious onlookers and slammed by child abuse groups.

The show includes full frontal nude shots of a young girl with an old man, images of the girl with a knife in her hand and a picture of her murdered, decaying body.

Yesterday Australians Against Child Abuse said the exhibition was "tasteless."

But yesterday afternoon art lovers at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image had to queue for up to 30 minutes to see the popular 14-minute show.

Yesterday the artist behind the show, Dennis Del Favero, said his work was "trying to deal with the experience of sexual violence that's occurred in Australian society."      

The work received $40,000 funding from the Victorian Government and  $20,000 from the Federal Government's Arts Council.

And why not? If a dead shark is art, surely a murdered girl must be art too. When there are no standards, who is to say? It’s art if I say it’s art. And the New Academy: the Arts Council, the critics, the curators, the groupthink in-crowd – that’s the only kind of art they will promote.   If it shocks, it rocks. If it bleeds, it leads. The sinner is the winner.  No shame; just fame.

It’s a race to the bottom.

But what about the proletariat?   Let’s do one for the working class.

Dying Sparrow as Art
May 12, 2004

London, England – A dying sparrow is on show at London’s Tate Modern gallery.   The bird, which is lying on its back trapped between two double-glazed windows, gasps for breath and convulses as it appears to die.

The exhibit is actually an animatronic sparrow which has been built using real feathers, and was created by Danish and Norwegian artists Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset.

They said the bird represents the dying breed of the British working classes, who are being slowly and cruelly suffocated.

The bird is the only exhibit in a huge space at the Tate Modern. Curator Susan May dismissed claims that the sparrow was just a gimmick. "It is absolutely art," she said. "It makes us look at something afresh. It can be read on many different levels."

Class, pay attention: it works on many different levels. Bourgeois art of any kind, whether van Gogh or Mozart or Shakespeare, is unidimensional, objectively re-inforcing the alienation of unidimensional man to maintain the power of the elite. The Dying Sparrow is multi-dimensional, multi-faceted, with layers and layers of meaning, achieving an aesthetic transubstantiation of that which is at once elusive yet ineluctable in the post-capitalist post-modern sensibility. Transcending socialist realism with an unequaled abstractionist range, the artist brings to the theme of a dying sparrow the hard-edged reality of the capitalist destruction of the eco-system and the slaughter of innocent Iraqi civilians, more “collateral damage” for the war-mongering fascists to profit from, but at the same time, on a whole other level, the artist signals to us the transcendent fecundity of the universe itself: a consummation before which we stand in consistorial witness. And this work of art, dedicated to the repressed working class, embodies countless levels of meaning, from the ground on down.

(Apologies to Daniel Moynihan)

Now, if a dead shark is art, and a murdered girl is art, and a dying sparrow is art, surely a sculpture of someone who committed suicide is high art.

Suicide Admired as Sculpture
November 14, 2004

Budapest, Hungary – Police on Friday removed the corpse of a man who committed suicide by hanging himself from a light fixture in the art gallery of Budapest’s University of Arts. Students and visitors had initially mistaken the hanging corpse for a modern sculpture.   The body hung in the gallery for a whole day before onlookers realized that it was in fact someone who had committed suicide.

The building had been closed for renovations and had just re-opened that morning. New sculptures had been added to the exhibit, and existing artworks had been re-arranged. Visitors at first assumed that the hanging man was a new work of art.  

Those policemen should join the German garbagemen in Art Appreciation courses. The garbagemen threw away art thinking it was garbage.   What if it turns out that the corpse hanging from the rafters in the art gallery was in fact a suicide case, but was nonetheless submitted as a work of art by his drinking buddies?   What if he was really an artist, and hanging himself was his greatest artistic statement, his masterpiece? How dare the forces of repression loot our art galleries and take the dead corpses out and bury them!   If a dead shark is the most valuable work of art by a living artist in history, how much would a hanging human corpse be worth? “The Non-Permanence of Life in the Mind of the Hanging Artist.”   Gotta be worth $15 million. Have my agent call the Tate.

Art as Crime

What to do, what to do? The urinal and the whole pee-pee ca-ca thing has been overdone. People aren’t shocked by it anymore. The dead shark, dead sparrow, dead little girl, been there, seen that. Well, we could do a dead elephant, nobody has done a dead elephant, but we’d need heavy moving equipment. It looks like art is over.   There’s nothing left to do. The history of art has come to an end. It’s finished. We are all out of ideas.

Hey, wait a minute! I’ve got an idea.   Let’s commit a crime, and videotape getting arrested and the reaction of the spectators!   And let’s make it an international cultural crime, a crime against art itself!!!!

It should be easy. I fly to Europe, slit my wrist and fill a bottle with my own blood, and then I go to the museum and throw my blood onto some of that bourgeois European art they have over there, and then videotape the reaction of the crowd, the museum guards, and the police when they come to arrest me!  Desecrate sculptures! Deface a Picasso! Sabotage bourgeois art in the name of the Proletarian Cultural Revolution! Wow, this is great. Canada attacks! The true artist desecrates the art of that phony, Picasso! Blood for oil! (Oil paintings, get it? Blood for oil!!!) Now, what’s the phone number of the Canada Council for the Arts?

Governor General's Award-winner arrested in Germany
December 1, 2004

A Governor General's Award-winning artist was arrested in Germany after he threw a vial of his own blood on a sculpture on display at the Hamburger Bahnhof museum.   Istvan Kantor was charged with disturbing the peace and property damage.

The 55-year-old Toronto artist reportedly shouted "I am protesting against the loss of independence in art" following the incident.

Known for shouting obscenities and inserting objects into his rectum in public, Kantor styles himself as an agitator for the “Neoist Proletarian Cultural Revolution,” an international anarchist group.

During the past three decades, Kantor has been banned from museums and art galleries around the world, including New York's Museum of Modern Art and the National Gallery of Canada, notably for splattering his own blood on the walls and artworks. In one notorious action, he defaced a Picasso with his blood.

Kantor was awarded Canada’s 2004 Governor General's Award for Visual and Media Arts in recognition of his lifetime artistic achievements.   The award citation sent to the media by the Governor General’s office specifies that his achievement is not so much throwing his blood on famous works of art, but more importantly, the reaction he incites: "the outraged museum guards, the disgusted audience, the police and the criminal charges are all as much a part of the art as the unsettling blood itself," states the Government of Canada press release.

Kantor’s own website describes his artistic achievements: “During the past three decades Istvan Kantor aka Monty Cantsin AMEN! has executed several hundred blood actions, repetitiously and obsessively incorporating the act of blood - taking in his performances. Many of Kantor's blood-x works were done without authorisation, in illegal circumstances, exploring the form of guerrilla performance, surprise intervention, criminal action and openly relating to the act of vandalism. He was arrested and imprisoned on many occasions for his unwanted blood splashes performed in museums. Besides his museum crimes Kantor also likes to explore different kinds of intellectually and physically assaulting methods of creation, from breaking objects to generating unbearable noise via excessive and risky body actions. As a result Kantor/Cantsin's name often gets associated with destruction and violence.”

Canada’s Governor General, Adrienne Clarkson, presented the award and a cheque for $15,000 to Kantor for his lifetime contribution to Canadian art.

Canada was once a powerhouse in art, back in the days when we also had a navy. Tom Thomson, A. Y. Jackson, Emily Carr, Jean-Paul Riopelle, Alex Colville.

Today, the top prize goes to a self-described violent criminal who throws blood on real art. This is what gets rewarded, this is what is chosen by the curators, the committees, the arts advisory boards. The same ones who voted for the urinal as the work of the century.   Usually, the world of art is simply ignored by almost everyone, because it’s just a small group of attention-seekers trying to impress each other, trying to out-do each other with their insults to the society that allows them such freedom.

Surprisingly, the arrest of Canada’s lifetime art achiever, as he defaced art in Europe, attracted a full-blown editorial in the Montreal Gazette, a rare example of a mainstream newspaper speaking out about the phoniness of Canada’s art establishment. Here is the full text of the Editorial:

Nonartists celebrate at taxpayers’ expense
The Gazette
Saturday, March 06, 2004       

“But is it Art?” So the devil asks Adam and his progeny in a poem by Rudyard Kipling, who could never have known how useful the expression was destined to become. As often as not these days, especially with respect to the paraphernalia produced by those who call themselves conceptual or media artists, the obvious answer is no.

But an aesthetic oligarchy appointed by the Canada Council has decreed the Governor-General’s Awards in Visual and Media Arts this year shall go mostly - if not entirely - to nonartists who create nonart. Perhaps the ceremony at which Governor General Adrienne Clarkson hands out the $15,000 cheques should be appreciated as a postmodern comment on the subversive relationship of the artist and the state, but it looks more like a flagrant waste of taxpayer money and the debasement of an important public honour.

It has already been noted one of the magnificent seven, Istvan Kantor, a multi-media type with a knack for shouting obscenities and inserting objects into his rectum, has been arrested and charged for vandalizing public galleries and even defacing a Picasso with his own blood.   We must not think this is a bad thing. As the award citation notes, “the outraged museum guards, the disgusted audience, the police and the criminal charges are all as much a part of the art as the unsettling blood itself.” Kantor leads the pack in his strenuous efforts to be nihilistic, but his colleagues are not to be underestimated.   Iain Baxter, portrayed as the granddaddy of Canadian conceptualists, is praised for his Animal Preserve No. 2, a set of industrial shelves laden with 500 jars stuffed with pickled animals. At least they died for art. John Oswald is cited for “plunderphonics, mystery tapes, rascali klepitoire, art wrestling, pitch works, spinvolver works, and chronophotics.” We’ll take a dozen of each.   Tom Hill, who has worked widely as a curator of aboriginal art, has some suspiciously representational canvases to his credit. But his Allegory to MGM of 1973 is ironic. Bear in mind the award is not for creating beauty but for advancing “global struggles to establish a new postcolonial order.” Bravo, Tom!

One might hope the governor-general, viewed by most Canadians with respect, could be spared the disgrace of involving herself in this fiasco. But the jury, like the Canada Council itself, operates at arm’s length. We are powerless to stop it.   Unfortunately, to object to the selection only encourages the conceptualists, who feed on controversy and welcome the offence they cause as evidence of success. The sad irony of the conceptual racket is that it pays. Andreas Serrano, creator of Piss Christ, a crucifix photographed in urine, is much better known than hundreds of real artists who create real art in a multitude of traditional and progressive styles.   That doesn’t mean we can’t start to reclaim the power the government has bestowed on juries packed with elitists and insiders. A boycott by the governor-general herself? Now that would be performance art.

© Copyright   2004 Montreal Gazette

Naturally, younger artists, hoping for the same level of success, have been imitating Kantor’s assaults on the creations of true artists.

Copy-cat Art Crime

New York City – Canadian art student Jubal Brown ingested blue gelatin and cake icing on November 4, walked into the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, and vomited on a painting by Mondrian. An earlier target of Brown's was Raoul Dufy's "Harbour at le Havre" which was treated to his special spew of red at the Art Gallery of Ontario. Brown chose to vomit on classic paintings he found "stale, obedient, lifeless crusts" as an attempt to "liberate individuals...from...banal oppressive representation." Witnessed by a few "lucky" museum patrons and photographed by an accomplice, Brown said the event wasn't stale like the rest of the art in the gallery.   MoMA security called the police, but managers of the museum refrained from pressing charges, fearing the publicity would encourage “copy-cat” actions. The Ontario College of Art , where Brown is a student,  refused to censure him, much to the consternation of gallery owners.

Crime as art

Scratching your cars was art, says vandal
April 18, 2005
Glasgow , Scotland

An artist who randomly vandalized nearly 50 cars as part of a project said yesterday the owners should be happy they were involved in his “creative process.”  Mark McGowan, 37, will display pictures of himself scratching the vehicles in Glasgow and London in an exhibition this week.

He said: “I pick the cars randomly. What I have been looking at are issues of property and linking it with art and performative action. There is a strong creative element in the keying of a car, it’s an emotive engagement.” His work will be displayed on Wednesday night in a launch party at The Arches, an exhibition venue in Glasgow.

He said of his latest stunt: “I do feel guilty about keying these people’s cars but if I don’t do it, someone else will and they should feel glad that they’ve been involved in the creative process.”

McGowan has a postgraduate degree in the history of art.

What gets rewarded

And of course, there’s the Turner Prize in England

Winners of the $50,000 Turner Prize in the past few years:

“Death,” described in the catalogue as “a life-size bronze cast of two inflatable sex dolls engaged in fellatio,” by Jake and Dinos Chapman.

“Sex,” a bronze sculpture of mutilated bodies bound to a tree while maggots, flies and rats run over the bark.

Transvestite potter Grayson Perry whose elegantly painted vases have truly shocking subjects, like “We’ve Found the Body of Your Child.”

Anya Gallaccio’s exhibit may not last until the Turner winner is picked -- she displays fading daisies and real rotting apples on a bronze-cast apple tree.

Pop superstar Madonna swore live on television when presenting the prize in 2001 to conceptual artist Martin Creed who won with his creation of a bare room with a light that switches on and off.   In 1998, Chris Ofili won with a Virgin Mary made of elephant dung. In 1995, Damien Hirst won with a pickled sheep, while artist Tony Kaye once tried to submit a homeless steel worker as his entry.

2004 - Two artists who created a virtual replica of what is said to be Osama bin Laden’s residence in Afghanistan have been named as finalists for this year’s Turner Prize.

Also on the list is Kutlug Ataman, 41, best known for his video documentaries, including one on the life of a transsexual Turkish prostitute, Never My Soul 2002, and The Four Seasons Of Veronica Read, an erotic look at a female horticulturist’s obsession with her amaryllis flowers.

Yinka Shonibare, 42, has been shortlisted for sculptural installations that use African fabric “to subvert conventional readings of cultural identity.”

His work includes headless figures in African dress sitting at a table or having sex.

Installation artist and DJ Jim Lambie, whose pop and youth culture-inspired pieces transform objects with everyday materials, including coloured tape, glitter, plastic bags and empty cigarette packs.

“The short list shows the extraordinary depth of talent and experience in British art,” Nicholas Serota, chair of the judging panel said, adding that the artists have staged successful shows in Europe and in the U.S.

Merry Pranksters:

Let’s all join the fun

All it takes to be an artist is to have an idea. No skill, no training, no experience required. So let’s all join in!   Let’s take our “art” into the art galleries and just hang it up. Nobody will know the difference, because in art, anything goes, there are no values, so nothing is better than anything else. It’s art if I say it’s art; therefore I am an artist if I say I am an artist. And who is to say otherwise? What standards of good and bad do you have to say that my crap is not as artistic as your crap? Let’s all take our junk and put it up in the art galleries! The fascist imperialists can’t stop us! Check out these Merry Pranksters:

Electricians put ‘sculpture’ in museum as prank
June 13, 2003

BEACON, N.Y. - The phrase, “I could do that” is often heard at modern art museums. Some electricians working at the Dia:Beacon museum tried to prove it. The facility, located about 60 miles north of New York City, is among the world’s largest contemporary art museums.

After viewing abstract sculptures by John Chamberlain crafted with materials such as crushed automobile parts, a group of electricians doing renovation work in the gallery created their own work and placed it alongside Chamberlain’s.

About a week passed before anyone noticed the addition to the exhibit.

“We saw some artwork upstairs,” David Vega, the group foreman, told radio station WNYC. “We tried to imitate it see how long they’d take to find it.” About a week passed before anyone did.

The museum threw away the electricians’ sculpture.

And the winner is….   BANKSY

Banksy is a graffiti artist in Bristol , U.K.  And he is a Merry Prankster.   He doesn’t wait for approval from curators; he just walks in to major galleries and museums and installs his art. And waits to see how long it stays there.

Museum fails to smell a rat
April 10, 2004

A graffiti artist called Banksy smuggled his latest work, a dead rat in a glass-fronted box, into the Natural History Museum in London.

Staff did not notice that the rat was out of place amid the museum’s usual fare of dinosaur bones and artifacts from the animal kingdom.   The rat was stuffed and clad in scaled-down wraparound sunglasses, and had a rucksack on its back and a microphone in one paw. A miniature spraycan sat at its feet, while above it was sprayed in graffiti-style lettering “our time will come.”

The piece, called Banksus Militus Ratus, was displayed with a text that said the common sewer rat had some remarkable new characteristics.   “Attributed to an increase in junk food waste, ambient radiation and hardcore urban rap music these creatures have evolved at an unprecedented rate.” It quotes a bogus university professor as saying: “You can laugh now . . . but one day they may be in charge.”

Banksy is believed to have disguised himself as a museum worker to glue the case to a wall.

Museum visitors liked the rat exhibit and one staff member had thought it was genuine.   Last year Banksy said not getting caught was part of the buzz.

“The art to it is not getting picked up for it, and that’s the biggest buzz at the end of the day because you could stick all my shit in the Tate Modern and have an opening with Tony Blair and Kate Moss on Rollerblades handing out vol-au-vents and it wouldn’t be as exciting.”

The Guardian

Man smuggles own art into MoMA
March 25, 2005

NEW YORK  -- A British graffiti artist who goes by the name “Banksy”   smuggled in his own picture of a soup can and hung it on a wall at New York ’s Museum of Modern Art , where it stayed for more than three days before anybody noticed.

The prank was part of a coordinated plan to infiltrate four of New York’s top museums on a single day.

The largest piece, which he smuggled into the Brooklyn Museum, was a 2 foot by 1.5 foot oil painting of a colonial-era admiral, to which the artist had added a can of spray paint in his hand and anti-war graffiti in the background.   The other two targets were the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the American Museum of Natural History, where he hung a glass-encased beetle with fighter jet wings and missiles attached to its body.  

Banksy’s bug

Banksy’s bug

It is not the first time he has staged such stunts.  Last year he smuggled work into the Louvre in Paris and London’s Tate.   “My sister inspired me to do it. She was throwing away loads of my pictures one day and I asked her why. She said ‘It’s not like they’re going to be hanging in the Louvre.”’ He took that as a challenge. “I thought why wait until I’m dead?” he said.

His preferred creative outlet, graffiti on trains, was growing more difficult due to greater security so he decided to branch out into infiltrating museums. “I tend to gravitate to places with less sophisticated security systems,” he said. Such as MoMA and the Louvre.

Officials at the Natural History Museum declined to comment on security. Museum of Modern Art officials said only that the offending picture was taken down on March 17.   It was unclear what gave the game away but Banksy’s version of Andy Warhol’s iconic images of Campbell’s Soup Cans showed a can of Tesco Value tomato soup, a discounted brand sold only by a British supermarket chain.

He said the painting in the Metropolitan Museum , a small portrait of a woman wearing a gas mask, had been discovered after one day, while the others stayed up for several days. The paintings were fixed to the wall with extra-strong glue.

- Reuters.

Artist makes fools of top gallery
London, England

An artist has caused embarrassment at the British Museum in London by installing his own ‘primative’ painting of a caveman pushing a supermarket trolley.   The artwork appeared in the Roman Britain gallery.   Trolleys were first used in the Piggly-Wiggly Supermarket chain, Oklahoma City, in 1937.

The bizarre exhibit, labelled Early Man Goes to Market, was a hoax put there by Banksy.

Banksy announced on his website that Early Man, painted on a piece of rock 10 inches by 6 inches, had “remained in the collection for quite some time.”

Museum staff found the rock in Gallery 41 but they had no idea how long it had been there.

Banksy, who calls himself a graffiti artist, has pulled similar stunts to mock the art world at Tate Britain, the Natural History Museum and major galleries in New York and Paris in the last few years.

- Sky News

Hats off to Banksy, whoever he is. With humour – and talent and skill and effort – he shows that the emperor has no clothes.

Artists did not make the world ugly,
but they should not make it uglier

It is time to assert the Majesty of Creation

Duchamp put his urinal on display in 1917, the year the Bolshevik coup d’etat crushed the fledgling democracy in Russia, the year when the slaughter in the trenches of World War I reached absurd proportions, with millions and millions of soldiers chewed up as cannon fodder, in battles that did not move the front more than a few yards, while the generals and the politicians on both sides hid far away from the front lines, completely clueless on how to stop the mass murder they had started.

Sixty-five million men wore uniforms; thirty-seven million of them became casualties. In Duchamp’s France, 76% of the soldiers were killed or wounded. The Battle of Verdun caused a million casualties, and the front did not move one way or the other. Austria lost 90% of its soldiers. It was a common practice to keep all the men from any given town together in the same military unit. They would charge out of the trenches, running into the machine guns, and the town would lose all its males between the ages of 15 and 35, in a single futile charge. Entire regions were left with no young men, and the women and children had to fend for themselves.

Max Ernst, painter, was an artilleryman in the war. He described the reaction of artists: “Our rage aimed at total subversion. A horrible futile war had robbed us of our existence. We had experienced the collapse into ridicule and shame of everything represented to us as just, true, and beautiful. My works of this period were not meant to attract, but to make people scream.”

Tristan Tzara, in the Dadaist Manifesto of 1918: “There is a great negative work of destruction to be accomplished. We must sweep and clean.   Affirm the cleanliness of the individual after the state of madness, aggressive complete madness of a world abandoned to the hands of bandits, who rend one another and destroy the centuries.”

Throughout Western society, millions of people lost faith. There had been great faith in science, in machines, in industrialization, in religion, in progress, in the institutions of society. And World War I destroyed that optimism. Artists did not invent the ugliness of the trenches, where rats chewed on the dead and clouds of poison gas burned out the lungs and artillery barrages left nothing but a moon-scape of mud and blood, in a war that had no purpose. And it was just the beginning of a century filled with industrialized horrors: Stalin’s 30 million victims, the Great Depression, fascism, World War II, the Holocaust, Mao’s 50 million victims, Pol Pot killing anyone who could read, genocide in Rwanda, Islamic suicide bombers.

Artists react, artists portray, artists express, artists often do foresee the future, and in 1917, Duchamp was ahead of his time when he said to the leaders of the world: piss on it. There is nothing pretty now. The very best is attached to the sewer system and it all stinks.

This depression and discouragement and revolt spread far beyond the visual arts; it spread everywhere.

In 1922, T.S. Eliot opened up a generation of depressed and despairing literature:

What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow
Out of this stony rubbish? Son of man,
You cannot say, or guess, for you know only
A heap of broken images, where the sun beats,
And the dead tree gives no shelter, the cricket no relief,
And the dry stone no sound of water.
Here is no water but only rock
Rock and no water and the sandy road…
…Dead mountain mouth of carious teeth that cannot spit
Here one can neither stand nor lie nor sit
There is not even silence in the mountains
But dry sterile thunder without rain
There is not even solitude in the mountains
But red sullen faces sneer and snarl
From doors of mudcracked houses
I will show you fear in a handful of dust.

Notice, ahem, that he did not find these words in a garbage dump, or rush out and throw blood on a Shakespeare manuscript while denouncing homophobia. He used his talent, and skill, and hard work to create these words. But the gloomy atmosphere was pervasive. And visual artists took up some of his imagery: “Dead mountain mouth of carious teeth that cannot spit.”  Not pretty.

“I will show you fear in a handful of dust.” Not pretty. But true.

It was not the artists who made ugly things happen in the world. And no blame is attached to them for making ugly art. They spewed out their revulsion at what was happening to the human race.

And no blame is attached to them for the con games; selling a dead shark for millions of dollars; collecting government grants for absurd art projects. When governments give out billions of dollars in grants to business, and every special interest group has its taxpayer slush funds, and the government itself is blatantly corrupt, then no blame can be attached to the artists for getting a few cheques from the taxpayers.   As long as the artist understands that the money is not for free. You do the art that gets the grants, that’s gets the approval of the critics. And what gets the grants and the awards and the approval is crap. So you make yourself into a crappy artist. Who will not be taken seriously by anyone, who will have no place in the history of art, whose art will end up in the garbage can. That’s quite a price to pay to get a cheque from the Governor-General’s art committee, to get approval from the groupthink professors and curators.  And not to get paranoid, but do you ever wonder why the government pays money to have artists marginalized, producing crap that no one wants, that no one takes seriously, that has no impact on the future at all? If everything is ugly and chaotic and without value or faith or beauty or truthfulness or depth or permanence, don’t you think there are some people who have reasons to prefer it that way? Who would pay to keep it that way? Who, then, are really the running-dog lackeys of the new bourgeoisie?

In the history of art, (and all history moves on), crap has worn out its welcome. First the urinal, then pee-pee ca-ca, then throwing blood at Picasso. It’s all been done. Every item of garbage from the garbage dump has already been put on display.

Oh, because the New Academy and the elite of the art world were educated by Marxists who believe that Western art has to be crap, the support for crap will linger on, and some con-artists will still milk the system with new attempts at provoking revulsion and outrage. But the game of “Can you top this?” has grown old and bitter. Been there, seen that; nothing there worth seeing; just a few intellectuals trying to impress each other; just a few attention-seekers acting out their emptiness; just a few rich kids trying to upset Mommy and Daddy. Just a few bitter old men who never did have any talent in the first place.

The Century of the Urinal is over; 30 years of crap is enough.

Rachel Campbell-Johnson, art critic for The Times of London describes her own fatique with the purveyors of the ugly and the shocking:

“It now seems like a parody of itself, and in a sense that’s what they’re trying to do - they’re poking fun at the childlike desire to provoke,” she told British Broadcasting Corp. radio. “But it’s no longer provocative. You look at it and you think, ‘so what?’”

It’s a dead horse. Crap art is on its way out.

There is a return to beauty.   Not because all the ugliness in the world is gone. There is still plenty of the ugly, and the violent, and the horrible.   But we see enough of that on the nightly news.   We don’t want to hang it on our living room walls, we don’t want to see it in our museums, we don’t want to pay for it. We want those garbagemen to come back from their Art Appreciation Class and put all the crap art where it belongs: in the garbage.

Beauty is coming back because we need beauty.

We need beauty to live. We need beauty to know what is fair. We need truth and beauty and honour and love, and the more we are deprived of these things, the more we behave like people who are deprived of what we need to breath.

The modern artists say that what counts is your reaction to their art. So they go for the quick shock effect.

Beauty gets a slower reaction because it has to whisper to the soul, and that takes time. But it is a much greater, a much longer-lasting reaction, a greater reward, a true impact.

If you are an artist, you need to work hard, you need to practice your craft, and most of the time, you must see the beauty around you and make it more beautiful.

If you don’t want to do that, stop calling yourself an artist.

It is the creators of beauty who are the true revolutionaries.

In a world where there is totalitarianism, butchery and bombers, cruelty and savagery and hate, it is easy to add in a bit more ugliness, a bit more cynicism and contempt.

In a world where evil lurks, it is easy to add to the despair.

In such a world, it is the creators of beauty who show us how it should be, how it can be, how, someday, it must be, if good and truth are to prevail over evil and lies.

It is the creators of beauty who are the true revolutionaries.

The urinal was a prophecy for the 20th Century.

And what will be the most influential artwork of the 21st Century?

Something that helps us get from that old prophecy to this new prophecy:

What a sigh of relief
as the senile robins become bright red again,
and the retired nightingales pick up their dusty tails,
and assert the Majesty of Creation!

(And if you don’t know who said that, you have not been listening to the prophets.)


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