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19.9.05

Wim Delvoye

La Vache qui ritI had never heard of an artist named Wim Delvoye, before I read an interview with him ("Je cherche à donner une cotation à l'art", August 26) by Geneviève Breerette for Le Monde. (I missed James Graff's 2003 piece on Delvoye for TIME, as well as Els Fiers's A Human Masterpiece, for Artnet in 2001.) He has his studio in Ghent, Belgium, and he is probably best known for his Cloaca machines, installations that recreate the human digestive process and end up producing, well, shit. What is he up to these days? The interviewer describes three or four assistants working in his studio at computers. One was working on a drawing of a Gothic style chapel, a private company's project that will house twelve windows based on X-ray images of bodies ("a true danse macabre worthy of fear and plague imagery from late Middle Ages"). Another was finishing the reproduction of a fountain by Jef Lambeaux, a 19th-century sculptor, which is going to be installed across from the original. He has also created Art Farm, near Beijing, where he plans to house some twenty pigs that he has had specially tatooed. Here's an excerpt of the interview (my translation), about Delvoye's plans to sell public shares in the Cloaca project on the stock market:

How far have you gotten with selling shares of Cloaca, your shit machine?

It's coming along. It's in process with my lawyers.

Why do you want to sell it on the stock market? To deconstruct the mechanism of capitalism?

Yes, to show how the system works. I am not really against it, it's more ironic. I am making fun. I don't take either side. I'm Belgian, I'm Flemish. I have nothing to win by taking sides. I have no opinion. Besides, what opinion can you have on something like our economy, that is just there, everywhere, in every corner, like God? The economy is everything. It may always have been like that.

As an artist, I am interested in Darwin, in Adam Smith, and I read books by contemporary economists and love to ponder art. I find the book on the table in front of you very interesting: Why are artists poor? It's a good question considering the prestige artists enjoy and the money that gets thrown at them. Its author, Hans Abbing, is a sociologist, a disciple of Bourdieu, but a little more flexible. He admits that one can actually have pleasure in art.
The Biennale d'art contemporain de Lyon has invited Delvoye this fall. He is going to mount a show in a large space in the Triangle. He told the interviewer that one room's walls were going to be covered with 4,000 stickers from packages of La Vache qui rit cheese, which he started collecting 20 years ago. The installation will be in place for two years. He is also interested in genetics and is planning a project called Art Pharm, also in China, which will produce "genetically modified art."

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