:Between Fundament and Futility; Acts of Being (A Manifesto For My Use of Merde):
:Preface (For The Use of Poo):My compulsion to create with crap, is complex and multifaceted. In part this stems from childhood experiences, while simultaneously being influenced by many other artists including (but not limited to), Stuart Brisley, Gunter Brus, Salvador Dali, Peter Hamilton, Piero Manzoni, Paul McCarthy and David Nebreda, musicians such as GG Allin & COIL and many other inspiring humans who have utilised excrement in one way or another (like the incredible Peter Freuchen), whom through their use of matter as both medium and message have reinforced for me not only the strange and surreal beauty of this product, but also the necessity of utilising shit as a substance to create and signal through the flames with.
Further rationale on the use of my rectal produce has been granted by theorists such as Julia Kristeva from their essay on abjection, 'Powers of Horror' and the economic essay George Bataille outlined in 'The Accursed Share' as well as the political struggle of prisoners held in Long Kesh, Northern Ireland, throughout the 1970's and early 80's on what was known as the 'Dirty Protest'.
This text about turds - my manifesto for merde (or rather my use of it), I feel is absolutely necessary and vital before any continuation or thread of experimentation (beyond painting), with excreta. It is my hope that through reading the fruits of my research, that those who are repulsed and wretch at the thought of doing anything other than flushing fundament down the toilet, can at least begin to understand and perhaps agree with my modus operandi of aktion with my fecal matter.... While the creation of waste is an undeniable by-product of living, something that our bodies do as a consequence of consumption and digestion, it doesn't have to rot away needlessly. As long as peoples are disregarded, their plights and struggles dismissed flippantly, art should be challenging the status quo and the raw energy and violent force of fecal matter can and should be harnessed to this end, to paraphrase Andre Stitt: Fundament is Not Waste, It's A Fuckin' Hammer.
:Shame is Shit: As young child in a classroom in Northern Ireland (approx 5 or 6 years old), when my teacher was surrounded by students eager to have their work assessed, I approached their desk and asked if I could be excused to go to the bathroom. "Go back to your seat" was the response... I dutifully returned to my seat and proceeded to urinate in my trousers. When my teacher noticed that I was sat in puddle of my own making, she grabbed me by the arm and dragged me crying to the back of the classroom where I was put in a cupboard, in the dark, for what felt like an eternity. When the door was finally opened and the light switched on, I was presented with a bag of ill fitting clothes to wear for the remainder of the day.
Throughout my younger years, the act of pissing and occasionally shitting myself and the bed in which I slept continued... by the time I left primary school I had even defected in the swimming pool during a lesson.
In my (s)explorations as an adult, making informed decisions about my life and art, throughout paintings and live performances, the resources produced by this mortal husk have been consistently mined in an effort to subvert any sense of shame that was instilled through my abject humiliation, so that it may now be harnessed as a weapon.
I do not believe that my artwork is therapy or a product of the shame I have endured (despite being empathetic to this degradation), but that it is a reaction against shame as a societal construct that would seek to systematically control, berate and subjugate those that do not conform.
:“You Are What You Eat”, Is a Reference to Your SHIT: An unavoidable byproduct to the act of living is the bodies need to defecate, this matter produced daily as direct result of the action of consumption, is a signifier of your health - on a basic level this waste that we produce on the porcelain throne, is a derivative of the digestion of food stuffs as well as dead blood and tissue cells - as a consequence changes in colour, shape and consistency are all factors to consider or decipher as you glance at your dookie before flushing it down the u-bend. As a child I was conditioned to discard these dookies, to be ashamed of my innate curiosity at this object my body produced out of sight and to flush it out of my field of vision because ultimately it’s a dirty, filthy, contaminant ‘a throwback to everything about us that is primitive and humbling’ - but to take a shit is a basic human action that unifies us all. There is of course an argument to be made in the need to cast out our crap and to quarantine or sanitise our existence, and this is obviously to prevent any from of contamination from the pathogens our fecal matter contains, however as a species we are unavoidably and inextricably linked to the filth we produce, as it is in essence a trace of our being.
This need to purify the putrid has served to move humanity away from the abject horror of our existence and questions of our mortality - the act of wrapping our poo in paper and flushing it away without a second glance, the desire to preserve youthful looks through plastic surgery, the need to obsessively clean to stem the order of decay, are all components in the denial of death that should be dismantled and discarded.
Further to the need to understand and to classify our bio matter in an effort to gauge the state of our bodies health, two Drs at the University Department of Medicine, Bristol Royal Infirmary, Dr. Stephen Lewis and Dr. Ken Heaton, developed the Bristol Stool Scale with a view to using it as a clinical assessment tool in combating various bowel diseases. This scale is now used widely and can better help us in understanding the impact our diets and lifestyles can have on our feces. By using this chart, by surveying what we shit, not only can we improve on our quality of being, but we can start to strip away the the fear that denies us in celebrating death as a rite of passage that links us all. At it’s most basic level, this chart reveals the importance in looking at at your shit on toilet paper or in the toilet bowl to better understand your own well being and not necessarily as a contaminant destined to unleash death.
In their 1987 essay ‘Is The Rectum A Grave?’ Leo Bersani argued that if the rectum is the grave in which the masculine ideal (an ideal shared-differently-by men and women) of proud subjectivity is buried, then it should be celebrated for its very potential for death. While this tragic notion was literalised throughout the AIDS epidemic, the material that is produced by the body and expunged by the anus, is a life affirming mix of bio matter that confirms a state of functionality and routine that is only capable by the living - and while I understand that an ideal cannot be buried and that an anus can be considered as a graveyard when life giving sperm can be released into it (condemned to not complete the task they were designed to perform), a shit will pass through that passage completing another lifecycle independently of the body that produced it; if the rectum is the grave, then shit is the resurrection.
:Waste As A Weapon: In his book on political economy ‘The Accursed Share’ George Bataille argued that waste, or ‘the accursed share’ is a part of the economy that is non recoupable, money that which either must be used in luxurious abandon, on the arts, in non-procreative sexuality, monuments and acts of charity or if not used in this manner, would lead to spending on catastrophic industry such as war. In essence Bataille is drawing an absolute parallel between our bodies natural processes - consumption, digestion, excretion - and that which we create around us, in this case our economy, while acknowledging that man is mimicking nature; waste is unavoidable, but by highlighting ‘the Accursed Share’ Bataille exposes how we decide to harness that energy or that product, we do have a choice. By taking this theory of the accursed share and economic waste and applying it to bodily waste we have a clear choice, we can discard it or utilise or shit and subvert this waste matter and weaponise it as a force to challenge the status quo, as a metaphorical hammer to amplify the voice of dissent.
The ‘Dirty Protest’ started by political prisoners in Long Kesh/HM Prison Maze, County Down, Northern Ireland is a striking and compelling moment of recent history where the violent force of the raw power of waste was harnessed as a weapon to be brandished in the face of brutality and a British Government, led by Margret Thatcher, that declared “There is no such thing as political murder, political bombing or political violence. There is only criminal murder, criminal bombing and criminal violence.” This challenge to the status quo, started in May1978 as a result of the British Government ending the Special Category Status for paramilitary prisoners within Northern Ireland and as a reaction to a prisoner being badly beaten by prison wardens while in solitary confinement. Those who chose to participate in the protest refused to leave their cells, resulting in chamber pots overflowing with excrement and food waste left decaying in corners of the rooms. Prisoners exacerbated the situation and conditions by smearing their shit all over the walls. In an interview in 1985, political prisoner Pat McGeown described the horrendous and abject filth “There were times when you would vomit. There were times when you were so run down that you would lie for days and not do anything with the maggots crawling all over you. The rain would be coming in the window and you would be lying there with the maggots all over the place.” At the height of the Dirty Protest there were approx 300 prisoners in Long Kesh smearing their walls with shit.
This surrender to horror and subversion of filth into a challenging force through an alchemical process is an undeniable in factor in contributing to my compulsion to create with crap. From the beginnings of my art practice I have sought to make beautiful images that challenge, that are complex in their layers of meaning but striking and simple in their execution and at times difficult to look at. As an artist who has been working with their body in the creation of artworks since 2001, every other bodily fluid that my body produces has been harnessed to create. My flesh has been ruptured with needles and penetrated with dildos, it has been debased with paint, piss and blood. Paintings have been created with my semen. I have held my mouth and anus open with dental retractors and speculums inviting people tho ‘inspect this’ as a playful Fuck You as an act of queer resistance in solidarity with those who’re being raped by the state of Egypt (and other rogue nations), as a refusal to feel any sense of shame regarding my sexual preferences. I have used my piss as a pendulum marking the passing of time, as a symbol for social decay, for loss and for longing. My saliva has created a snail like trace of my being as I merged the streets of Ipswich and London creating a mediation on my attempted suicide and the reclaiming of public spaces for quiet acts of dissent. I can only see it as an inevitability that fundament would begin to feature not only in paintings, but in live aktions also.
Shit, at this stage, has been utilised (largely) to explore symbols of protection and again to challenge systems of control, but now more than ever the words first used by Andre Stitt in 1976, before being used for a live akshun in 1978 resonate loud and clear: ’Art is Not A Mirror, it’s A Fuckin Hammer’.
Kris Canavan, February, 2018
:Fruits ov Our Labour:
:(First Reflections on Working With Fundament):
I am using SHIT, not to shock, disgust or provoke; I am not interested in sensationalist acts.
I am using my SHIT because as an artist who works with the/my body I have a duty to use all of my bodily resources to create works.
There is an inherent contradiction in our approach(es) to this bodily material... The child moves innocently and inquisitively towards this product that leaves it's body and instinctively wants to enquire with it.
The adult is repulsed, ashamed and does not want to accept that this filth, this waste is an indicator that they are alive and instead flushes it away hidden in paper.
To take a SHIT one must be alive.
By observing our SHIT, we can understand our health - are you not fascinated by how YOUR SHIT changes shape, colour and consistency based on what you consume?
YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT is a reference to YOUR SHIT.
Yet, despite this marker of health and life we choose to associate our SHIT with filth, shame, and disease.
Psychogeography, psychic projection, physical exhaustion and shame of the proletariat are all catalysts for a procession that seeks to go beyond the pavement and beyond the pain incurred on both hands and knees...An exploration in quiet discord, the purging of daemons and excess baggage, or an organised meet of the like-minded fanning the flames of dissent?
Lament as a procession, shame as a trigger, mourning as a catalyst, movement as process, repetition as progress, aktion as intervention. Lament as a procession, shame as a trigger, mourning as a catalyst, movement as process, repetition as progress aktion as intervention. Lament as a procession, shame as a trigger, mourning as a catalyst, movement as process, repetition as progress, aktion as intervention. Lament as a procession, shame as a trigger, mourning as a catalyst, movement as process, repetition as progress, aktion as intervention. Lament as a procession, shame as a trigger, mourning as a catalyst, movement as process, repetition as progress, aktion as intervention. DIRGE
In a continued (s)exploration into dissent, conflict, cause and effect, Version 2 moves forward into a controlled demolition of two connected bodies engaged in an ecstatic power struggle while attempting to study the mass expulsion of discontent currently felt by marginalized and forgotten members of society through an abstracted veil of Minimal Drag/Gender blurring and blunt force movement.
"You are young and beautiful darling and you deserve the best things in life...but you weren't young and beautiful tonight" [Crystal Labeija]
:La Tristesse Durera:
Gay without being ghetto, longing for without being desperate, obsessive without being possessive, hungry but fuck the G-8, I'm running but I don't want a self validating medal - "not in my name" is the only badge I wear.
Paranoia and parties, highs followed by heartbreak, "roots" and problems, dossiers and fake, words stringing us along effortlessly in the golden age of splendour and spin, I long for the eloquence of aktion - A fist in the air in the land of hypocrisy, let us not forget in our [now burst] bubble, that we are at war - death and taxes are the only certainties....
This happy sailor is set adrift in a sea of tragedy, riding waves of anger and anguish looking for the birth of beauty, meditating on the subversion of Aphrodite, longing for the "other" form of beauty that has been neglected, mistreated and abused by our collective ignorance.... [sigh]
:Amor es Dolor:
Amor es dolor.
The betrayal of the heart by a wandering mind.
The death of a loved one I neglected.
Alienated, Surrounded by many, but known by none.
I'm damned if do, and fucked if I don't.
A wild stab in the dark against a better judgement.
An aktion born of frustration.
In remembrance of... Momentary reflection.
Symmetry gone awry.
An attack against the institution combined with self sacrifice and an alchemical twist.
Desire, love and life...?
Submissive tendencies vs. empowerment or just plain recklessness?
Pulled in every fucking direction but too lazy to act and too stubborn to listen.
Why....? Answer:- L....?
:The Only Certainties [Memento Mori]:
Bodies are rendered into statistics, memento mori's and trinkets of worth scattered like leaves in an autumnal breeze.
A stone amongst stones, the memorials are born; death is always certain when peace is a war to be fought.
3x4 = 12, the 12th letter of the alphabet is L, L is for....?
For everybody that ever meant something, and to those that never did - who am I to decide?
It's ephemeral, existing for us all, will we ever receive it - will we ever know that it exists?
The support, the tenderness, the unknown, the fear, the friendship, the laughter, the turmoil, the kindness, the guilt, the darkness, the craving and the suffering.
L guides us all on this winding path through L to L.
All we can do is walk with L and hope that we will never be L.
But despite the inevitability of L, we can still L...
:Remove The Fucking Bricks From The Wall:
There are some things that words cannot describe, there are many moments [aktions] to eloquent for my limited theological thesaurus, but as long as the work can communicate across borders and boundaries this is all that matters; academia and language are weapons and walls - Art can and should transcend and travel way beyond these restrictions and limitations.
:A Declaration ov War:
By any means necessary, what [I feel] needs to be communicated will find a language - and my body will be the lightening rod for this [these] aktion[s]...