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Interview: Is artist Gavin Turk taking the piss?


Image credit: Photo of Gavin Turk by Ben Hopper

‘You might think I am taking the piss. In actual fact I am giving a piss,’ says Gavin Turk. The man that the Financial Times once dubbed the ‘laureate of waste’ has for many years produced art from detritus and now he’s launched a Kickstarter to support the production of his latest project – ‘Piscio d’Artista’. Inspired by the artist Piero Manzoni, Turk has spent the last couple of years canning his own urine and is now selling it for the price of its equivalent weight in silver. The artist spoke to Run Riot about what makes up a body of art, things he can’t bear to part with and what’s fizzing beneath the ring pulls of those shiny tin cans.

Eli Goldstone: Who was Piero Manzoni?
Gavin Turk: A proto-conceptual Italian artist who made infamous and wonderful artwork from 1956 to 1963, when he died, he was 29. He was part of the Zero group and started Azimut/h with Enrico Castellani showing and publishing work and articles on art and artists that they admired and related to. A story says that his father, who allegedly owned a canning factory, called his son’s work ‘Merda’ so he proceeded in August 1961 to can his own shit and create one of the most debated, contested and celebrated art works of the 20th century ‘Artist’s Shit’, 90 tins of the artist’s own shit. He apparently loved socialising and eating, he was known to have regularly visited numerous dinner parties on the same night.  
 
Eli: There is some debate over whether or not the tins actually contain excrement or not. What’s in your cans? Piss or Capri Sun?
Gavin: Piss, urine, pee or wee wee. Obviously, part of the pleasure with the work ‘Artist’s Piss’ is the Schrödinger's cat feeling where the ‘reality’ of the contents of the can are in a state of flux.
 

Image credit: Still from Gavin Turk Piscio de Artista, Kickstarter Campaign Video. Courtesy of Gavin Turk / Live Stock Market Ltd copyright The Artist

Eli: You’re interested in ideas of waste, and the ways that humans leave their mark on the world. Is this work a critique on consumerism or are you just having fun?
Gavin: Human waste in all its forms is probably the most important subject-issue to be tackled. This work ‘Artist’s Piss’ is for me a blatantly fun critique on consumerism.
 

Image credit: Still from Gavin Turk Piscio de Artista, Kickstarter Campaign Video. Courtesy of Gavin Turk / Live Stock Market Ltd copyright The Artist
 
Eli: Tell us about your decision to use Kickstarter to fund the project.
Gavin: This crowdfunding project is crucial in involving the audience in the production process, I want you to be involved in making art history – together we CAN.
 
Eli: How has this project furthered your thinking on self-portraiture?
Gavin: All art is a form of self-portraiture if you think about it, this project simply carries on in that tradition.   
 

Image credit: Still from Gavin Turk Piscio de Artista, Kickstarter Campaign Video. Courtesy of Gavin Turk / Live Stock Market Ltd copyright The Artist

Eli: What’s the most beautiful thing that you’ve ever thrown away?
Gavin: I think the difficulty is, if something is beautiful I tend not to throw it away, this is compounded by the fact that as I go to throw something away I get a flicker of the objects life flash in front of my eyes, wow, and now I’m left hanging onto an amazing piece of golden vac-formed plastic that had some fancy chocolates on it, it’s become some kind of beautiful high renaissance mini frame. My wife, Deborah calls me a hoarder. I tell her it’s art.
 
Eli: Warhol’s oxidation series inspired your own piss paintings. What is your relationship to the bodies of other artists?
Gavin: I love the fact that artists create bodies of work. These generally tend not to be confused with their actual bodies, however, if I look at art through the lens of performance art then all sorts of artistic and creative stuff can be emitted through the bodies of artists. Andy Warhol’s body was most amazingly photographed by Richard Avedon as he documented his scarred chest after the operation that saved his life when he was shot.    
 

Image credit: Gavin Turk - Artist’s Piss, 2021 image courtesy of Gavin Turk / Live Stock Market Ltd copyright The Artist

Eli: One of the Kickstarter rewards is an evening at your studio. What do your dinner parties look like and what’s on the menu?
Gavin: That very much depends on the guests! I’ll put some art on the walls, talk about the pieces and could even do a DJ set. The food will be wonderfully delicious North African & Spanish dishes, it’s going to be provided by the brilliant Sam & Sam Clark from Moro Restaurant.
 
Eli: Your cans involve a warning that the contents aren’t for consumption. But have you ever tasted your own piss? If so what did it taste like?
Gavin: No I haven’t, but I’m sure it would depend on what I’ve been eating, certainly eating asparagus affects the smell of it… I just canned it instead.
 
Gavin Turk's Kickstarter campaign, Piscio d’Artista kickstarter.com

gavinturk.com



Image credit: Gavin Turk - Artist’s Piss, 2021 image courtesy of Gavin Turk / Live Stock Market Ltd copyright The Artist

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