The study of, or preoccupation with...


June 04, 1993

SCATOLOGY -- the study of, or preoccupation with, excrement -- is admittedly repulsive," acknowledges the New York City artist Todd Alden. Still, as he says, "scatology is emerging as an increasingly significant part of artistic inquiry in the 1990s."

So what's an artist to do? Join 'em.

Mr. Alden sent a letter to 400 art collectors around the world, inviting them to participate in his latest project, in which they would donate samples of their feces for him to put in tins and offer for sale.

"The contents of each can will be listed on the label in five languages," Mr. Alden wrote.

"Each can will also indicate the name of the contemporary art collector responsible for producing the contents as well as my own name. Each can . . . will be accompanied by a certificate of authenticity signed by the producer of its contents and myself."

The idea is not original, Mr. Alden admits. The Italian artist Piero Manzoni canned 90 tins of his own dung in 1961 and priced it by the ounce, linked to fluctuations in the gold price. Canned excrement found few takers in 1961, Mr. Alden said, but has recently sold for as much as $75,000.

The point of this new brainchild, Mr. Alden suggested, "is to engage in a historical rethinking of Manzoni's important artwork, but to do so in a way that reverses the position of artist and collector; the collector is responsible for creating the work, and I, as artist, become a collector."

Mr. Alden, according to Harper's magazine, had received numerous responses to his proposal, and several collectors have agreed to participate in his project.

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