taking the piss

Thirsty? British artist Gavin Turk is flogging cans of his own urine
By Finn Blythe | Art | 13 September 2021

60 years ago, Italian avant-garde artist Piero Manzoni shook the art world with his Merda d’Artista project, selling tins of his own excrement worth their weight in gold. Launching tomorrow, British artist Gavin Turk will pay homage to the concept with his own take, Piscio d’Artista, in which he will sell bespoke aluminium cans filled with his own urine for their equivalent weight in silver.

After two years of studiously collecting his own urine (who said you can’t be productive in lockdown), Turk has amassed enough of the stuff to create a limited run of 1,000 330ml tins, each specially screen-printed with the phrase “artist’s piss” in 31 languages and sealed with a hand-signed foil.

Where Manzoni sought to denounce capitalism and consumer culture while parodying the art world’s obsession with permanence (see also: Artist’s Breath, Manzoni’s series of inflated balloons), Turk is building upon the artist’s legacy by focusing on the perennial nature of our material world. “I am fascinated by the life of things and what we ‘throw’ away,” says Turk. “A connection is severed as something disappears from me and is thrown away, and when I look at those disposed of things, I learn so much about how, what, why and who we are. As visual philosophy, art is always going to be seen through the paradigm of other art – a system of symbols and signs that are recycled through the generations.”

Launching with the help of a Kickstarter campaign, which at the time of writing has already comfortably reached its £20,000 target, backer rewards include a Blue Heritage Badge inspired by the plaque featured in his 1991 Cave installation, a special dinner at Atelier Gavin Turk, a set of limited edition prints and t-shirts and of course, the cans themselves. Just make sure you don’t confuse them in the fridge for a refreshing beverage.

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