This is an enterprising artist forties , and his large studio , a loft in Ghent (Belgium) , resemble an SME if it were in a corner of a shovel ornate heraldic motif and near windows , strange plants in stagnant waters have everything from culture broths for hybridizations.
Three or four assistants are planted in front of computers . One of them working on the design of the Gothic chapel built at the initiative of a private company , to accommodate twelve stained glass windows made from images of body X-ray : a real macabre dance worthy contemporary imagery of the great fears and plagues in the late Middle Ages. Another assistant refines the reproduction of the fountain Jef Shreds , a sculptor of the nineteenth century , which should take place in the face of the original.
The phone rings all the time. Lawyers and financial advisers are on the line . Wim Delvoye needs them to complete his great bizarre projects such as the stock market listing of Cloaca , his great work : a machine to do some shit , or Art Farm , the farm he went to install China, near Beijing, to let them live in peace twenty pigs he has a tattoo .
Wim Delvoye , who is surely the most disturbing western artist of his generation , talks about his multiple activities with a seriousness worthy of Marcel Duchamp.
How did you come to tattooing live pigs ?
It is a history that dates back to the early 1980s . While vacationing in Cuba, a friend, Gerardo Mosquera , said: » You know, Fidel Castro speaks to liberalize the regime, but the only concession he wants to do to the people , it is possible to have a pig in each house. »
With communism , the pig was a capitalist symbol, and it was not allowed in the private space . It is true that saving money with a pig. It is a product of biological and financial growth. We expected a gain . It’s like a work of art . Even the best collector expects a gain . If not looking for a financial investment , it seeks a social or symbolic gain , a collector say this: » And how I knew this artist became important! »
Nobody wants to admit that the force that is behind the art is that you can have . I pay for tattoo tattoo small paintings pigs. It is very special tattoo is really anticlasse , except for rogue . And I watch the world works that are so alive they should be vaccinated … It lives , it moves, it will die. Everything is real . The living art is more interesting than the art stuffed .
Why did you go in China install your tattooed pigs on a farm ?
I had the idea to go to China , before knowing what I wanted to conceive. To begin with, it was nice to make a firm , because China is still a largely agricultural country . And it’s interesting to work with Communist architecture firm . I can build . I do not produce pigs, I build a farm with pigs inside. It’s different.
Before , I was a pig or two and I was tired , I had more money , I was depressed . In Belgium , keep a pig living costs thousands of euros there veterinarians, vaccinations, so laws, paperwork . We do not get anywhere in our country. There, it’s easy. There are fewer financial pressures, not misery with health organizations. There is an energy that is not here and incredible freedom of being an entrepreneur . We are the Soviets , not them.
So you are going to develop your farm?
Bring pigs in China, it’s great ! Especially since it is the Chinese who have domesticated animals, there are 8000 years. My Art Farm will become a public company with shares. I will create profits for investors. I have a Webcam for shareholders 300 – collectors who have a password . They can control their living property. Way, the collector becomes complicit in the life and death of his pig , and thus his work. There work when he died before there was life. There art when we kill .
The collector is unconscious , he wants his work to become bigger, but at the same time the pig ages, taking pounds … When buying a living pig, he is complicit in the development of the work . Because actions are those of a farm with living art , not with art .
Where are you in the stock market listing of Cloaca , your machine to do some shit ?
It beforehand. This will be convertible bonds. This is a project with my lawyers .
Why are you looking at to list on the stock market ? Is it to dismantle the mechanisms of capitalism?
Yes , yes. Show the system. I ‘m not really against it is rather ironic. I do not care . I have no bias. I’m Belgian , I’m Flemish . I have nothing to gain from taking part . I have no opinion . Besides, what opinion do you have on something that is everywhere, in every corner, as God our economy. Everything’s economy. It may be that he has always been so.
As an artist, I am interested in Darwin, Adam Smith, I read books by contemporary economists and I like to think about art . I find it very interesting that book you see on the table : Why are artists poor? A good question , given the prestige of the artist and the money that is brewed around them. The author, Hans Abbing , is a sociologist , a disciple of Bourdieu. A little more flexible . He admits that we can have fun with art .
Back to the birth of Cloaca . What line is it?
I first had the idea of zero machine alone, before designing a machine to poop . I thought to Modern Times , Chaplin , his eating machine , this fascination of the early twentieth century to the machine. Artists such as Piero Manzoni with his shit artist box , and Marcel Duchamp, with The Bride Stripped Bare by her Bachelors and even the Chocolate Grinder , were rather a source of legitimacy of my work. All my memories are like movies : Planet of the Apes , with the human became a little idiots who love a kind of rocket found in the jungle. The last bomb had become their god. I found this picture as impressive technological trick that is religious, which is transcendent. Modern Times , Metropolis by Fritz Lang and other small films have influenced me . Friends have read Ruth Goldberg, the French told me Villiers de L’Isle -Adam : I bought The future Eve, but it was too hard to read, the language …
Were they involve money and shit , as in psychoanalysis?
Perhaps , more generally, the idea of making a lot of effort to get anything . When I was a student, I had the example of Christo . It épatait me . I did not realize that he and others sold their drawings around major projects. I thought I could never work for years to install a work that should last six weeks. I was fascinated by the choice of the ephemeral, but I had a little too much ego to accept for myself . I have never forgotten these artists. Cloaca is perhaps a way to do the same. I tried a complicated thing , hard to do, and expensive, and that leads to nothing .
That does not explain the poo …
When I started drawing Cloaca in 1992 , I made mosaics of turds decor. This idea came from another poop story: I had discovered that it was the best guarantee of equality. I always spoke of equality, it was my period of » democratic objects » . Plebeians . Proletarian . I did a lot . They fell very well in this time of fascination for the object. This was the time when Baudrillard spoke of the object that attracted us . The néogéos were fascinated by Baudrillard .
Many art critics spoke of » amenities » . I used circular saws, football goals , cabinets , objects a little proles . Everyone knows a football goal or a gas cylinder . These are objects that have a » street credibility . » It’s not like the work of art: it is worth nothing on the street. In contrast , cocaine, worth much . And I want that art is like cocaine . Whether it is in many museums , it should also be worth a lot on the street. I try to make sure it has a » currency » quote. It is an economic term. I purposely do a little .
Do you think your work is rooted in local history ?
For me , Andy Warhol is not very important, but it is more than Marcel Broodthaers . I learned the art of American visual efficiency: » you see what you see . » Wham! Very direct . In Belgian culture , I like the surreal . It is part of the landscape. If you live here , it is soaked and we did not need as Magritte real dad .
You’re Belgian ? You are Flemish ?
Certainly not Flemish . I regret that the draft Flemish nationalist movement of the nineteenth century has produced . It was empowering poor people who speak Flemish. In the twentieth century, they have been enriched with socialism. But we made the mistake of combining a socialist project raise the masses , with a language project . They said the poor speaking Flemish have the right to speak . So you need to install a bilingual country. It was a step forward to think he had to get rid of people who speak French . It’s not fair!
The Walloons and Flemings , it does not exist, they are all Belgians. Imagine that flamingants have failed in their project: we were all French . It would be sad because I speak little English . But apart from that, it did not matter : the writer Hugo Claus could add his talent, personality , memory, a line a thousand times larger and a thousand times more interesting than this small zero line two centuries literature » Dutch » that has never produced a Proust or Balzac , but still a little less. Fortunately, it does not concern me, I ‘m not a writer , I am a visual artist ! With Belgian culture , it shows, but with a Flemish culture , I do not think so.
You have many great achievements in progress: a fountain and a chapel in Belgium and in the fall prompted the Lyon Contemporary Art Biennial. What project are you going to present ?
I will explain in a large space apart at the Triangle . In one of the rooms , the walls are covered with over 4000 labels of La Vache Qui Rit . The implementation will take two years , it will be like at the end of Gilbert and George . My collection , I started there twenty years. It’s Darwin. I present the evolution of a cow to the capitalist way : a cow in 1921 or 1924. And the cow adapts becomes more fun . It becomes cow 1950s , Arabic , Chinese … It is a cow who must win in an industrial and economic development.
This change is necessary for the cow , I suppose, for the man.
The world has changed . We must stop believing the naivety of the twentieth century. See psychoanalysis. Freud really believe that we are depressed because we think his mother . Now it was possible to isolate the genetic structures that explain the depression, and we have to fight against chemicals . Psychoanalysis losing credibility becomes the nineteenth-century literature. You can still be interested to have fun, like with tarot or astrology . It’s sad to say, but I think that socialism is like psychoanalysis : it’s really over . I do not think we’re able to do man. Genetically yes , but certainly not culturally .
It does not seem to make you so sad that …
I am very excited of our century. I am fascinated by genetics, transgenics , hybrid , science … I want to include everything that is new to my work. I ‘ve not talked about my Art Pharm ph project in China, which produce a transgenic art …
Interview by Genevieve Breerette