Bernard Bazile, “Boîte ouverte de Piero Manzoni” (Photo via: Xavier Hufkens Gallery)
In 2008, box vox featured Piero Manzoni’s 1961 artwork, entitled Merda d’artista (“Artist’s Shit”) — a limited edition multiple of 90 labeled cans.
In the earlier post (“Packaging Waste”) I was mainly focused on the cans and their contents, but there were things I hadn’t known about Manzoni’s famous canned goods…
For one thing, I hadn’t realized that they functioned as a literal retort in a rhetorical dialogue with his father…
Supposedly, he made this work in response to a taunt from his father: “Your work is shit.” Since his father ran a factory that produced canned meats, Manzoni, in effect, paid him back in kind.
–John Miller, “Excremental value”
I always figured that the cans really did contain what was claimed on the label.
Photo by Wolfgang Thaler
Not everyone, however, accepted Manzoni’s labeling at face value. Some say that the cans actually contain something more innocuous…
In recent decades, many have been wondering what the can actually contains. Certainly not the organic matter declared. If so, sooner or later, the metal will corrode causing a spill. I can safely say that this is just chalk. Does anyone want to check? Go ahead. I am not going to bother.
Bonalumi Augustine, 2007
I also didn’t know that one of these cans had actually been opened.
Bernard Bazile did exactly that in his 1989 artwork, entitled: Boîte ouverte de Piero Manzoni (Opened can of Piero Manzoni)…
By opening one of the tins in 1989, Bazile declared the radicality gesture of the avant-gardes a failure that ultimately led to the production of ever new commodities and social differences (Boîte ouverte de Piero Manzoni). His later video installation Ein Maß für alle (2004) portrays owners of the Manzoni tins, hence an entire art system based on the fetishization of the work.
What precisely was inside? A “smaller can, also labeled merda di artista.”
A can within a can. What’s inside this smaller can? It would appear that no one really knows since Bazile did not open the inner can. It could well be that Manzoni’s 1961 excrement is contained within the “inner pack.” Perhaps that question will be settled in some future artwork.
Meanwhile, the FDA takes a dim view of packaging that does not actually contain what the label says. But even if the inner can does contain 30 grams of fecal matter, it might still be deemed a deceptive package, since the cans themselves were originally sold on the basis of its weight.
(A video and one more photo, after the fold…)
(Photo via: Xavier Hufkens Gallery)