Friday, March 10, 2006

Wim Delvoye Talkin' Shit

Belgian conceptual artist Wim Delvoye's lecture the other night at the Herron School of Art was perhaps the most entertaining lecture I have seen since the Francesco Clemente lecture at the IMA many years ago. Despite the major difference between each of these artists they both excel at speaking with an audience. For those of you who didn't go to the lecture, he was quite witty and seemed layed back, someone you would enjoy chatting with over a few drinks at the bar or at some party.

From the first time I saw one of his cement mixers (shown above) I thought this was an artist I would like to know more about. The delicacy and overly baroque ornamentation seen in many of his pieces is something I usually frown upon in a work of art but in his work, where this ornamentation is applied to such industrial machines like cement mixers, gas canisters, cement trucks, and bull dozers, seems to harken back, at least to me to Northern European/Dutch Still life paintings. At once beautiful as well as useless. It is this aspect of his work that I like. But about a third of the way into the lecture he then starts talkin about his Cloaca machines. Machines that reproduce the digestive system, in short machines that eat and shit. Never in a lecture have I heard someone wax on for so long about shit. Shit, shit, shit. Though I was enjoying the lecture, after awhile I was just tired and bored with all this intellectualizing over shit. I felt I was watching the latest teen comedy on t.v.

Finally, he then started to talk in depth about his tattooed pigs. This was an aspect of his work I knew little about. Hearing about what all goes into running a pig farm in China where he has a team of tattoo artists working daily was again revealing and I found myself pulled out of my boredum once again. That is until the audience started asking questions. Why is it audiences get this opportunity? It rarely is enlightening and more often than not the dumbest questions you can imagine. Wim was then hounded with numerous jabbing questions about his torturing of the pigs by having them tattooed and his hypocrisy for being a vegitarian. Wim I am sure has had to deal with this crap before but, really... If you missed this talk, you shouldn't have. Perhaps another time.

6 Responses to “Wim Delvoye Talkin' Shit”

Anonymous said...
March 11, 2006 at 8:19 PM

Great review of the lecture, Scott. My experience was very parallel to yours. I found myself starting to nod off when he was going into the science and chemistry of Cloaca. However, I do appreciate a good shit. I also agree about the after lecture questions. Do these good-doing Herron Students think that he hasn't answered these questions before? "Did the pigs HAVE to bleed?" No, but you will if you don't shut your mouth, you idiot!
I wonder why you didn't mention the sexual X-rays. Having been familiar with these for a while, Wim didn't give the time or attention to these that I hoped he would. They are really quite beautiful and interesting.

Scott said...
March 12, 2006 at 1:19 AM

In actuallity I just forgot to write about them. Are they forgetable, well no, but some how I did. I agree that he didn't give them the attention he could have, though I think I liked his use of them in the stained glass windows more than the actual x-rays. I tend to like artists who do some stained glass work, Matisse and Chagall. I think the x-rays fall a bit flat for me. When I look at them I doubt I could ever live with them. I say this having never seen them in person, so please take that into consideration. Anyone know where I can see them in person? How about any of his other works within driving distance of Indy? Does Chicago have any thing of his on display? or St. Louis?

Gianni said...
March 13, 2006 at 4:17 AM

Hi Scott,
Yes, you can see one of Wim Delvoye's stained glass pieces at the Stained Glass Museum in Chicago. That will be about the closest. Most of the other works in the US are in private collections, although the San Diego Museum of Contemporary Art has a tattooed pigskin in their collection too.

Scott said...
March 13, 2006 at 12:11 PM

Thanks for the info, Gianni. Looks like I will be making another stop while in Chicago.

Anonymous said...
March 13, 2006 at 2:55 PM

Scott, Why do you "usually" frown on delicacy and baroque ornamentation in contemporary art? Not contemporary LOOKING enough? Wim obviously found all of the silly rules of 80s and 90s contemporary art foolish. The questions after the lecture were par for the course, I think, and valid. For many people his pig work is pretty questionable from an ethical standpoint, since it treats sentient beings as objects. Of course, most people do this everyday, but not everyone. The real justification for that work, for anyone who truly cares about animal rights, is the fact that he prolongs the pigs' lives and improves them greatly. Sure, many people don't care, but I'm glad that someone who does spoke up. We're not all jaded and cynical.

Scott said...
March 13, 2006 at 4:23 PM

Well, as far as delicacy and ornamentation goes, I did not specify my usual dislike for that only in "contemporary" art. I usually dislike the heavy use of it in all art. This for me is nothing more than a purely aesthetic judgment. I will be the first to say that there are obviously artworks out there that break this generalization for me. But, in all I am just not usually drawn in by that type of aesthetic. My statement really has nothing more to it than that.

As for the questions after the lecture, I agree they are par for the course. I would just like to see one of these q&a sessions score better than par. Is it at all possible? I think so, but maybe we need to leave these types of things moderated. During the q&a's I always feel uncomforatable for the artist. Jaded and cynical, haha, I am glad as well that not everyone is jaded and cynical as we in the arts can be. And I am all for people being able to speak their opinion but after the third or fourth question or statement that night on the subject of his pigs I felt that the topic was nolonger a toic of art but a topic of personal ethics which could be held in private. Thank you for your comments.

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