Belgium’s most established enfant terrible

By Brigid Grauman. Financial Times. London (UK): Nov 18, 2010. pg. 15

Now 45, [Wim Delvoye] is Belgium’s most established enfant terrible. A friend and admirer of dissident Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, Delvoye has, when I meet him, just returned from the opening at Tate Modern of Ai’s Turbine Hall installation, a carpet of millions of porcelain sunflower seeds. Like Ai, Delvoye is a dab hand at unexpected couplings – life-size latticework cement mixers, gas canisters decorated like antique Delft tiles, ceramics depicting turds.

Delvoye first made his name internationally some 10 years ago with his Cloaca machines, feats of engineering that reproduced the workings of the digestive system through a churning succession of vats, bottles, cables, pipes and pumps – from a plate of food to the final excrement. The idea, he says, was to design a costly contraption that produced something with no value at all; in doing so, he also evoked many people’s view of contemporary art. Delvoye marketed the experiment, selling Cloaca T-shirts, toilet paper and bottled turds, even attempting to trade the latter on the stock market. He owns nine Cloaca machines and is constructing a 10th to hang from the ceiling at Tasmania’s Museum of Old and New Art when it opens next year.

There are other links down the centuries. Delvoye’s twisted Christ series take the most iconic image of all – the Crucifixion – and digitally deforms it. The resulting sculptures comprise numerous Christs, taken from an ivory Crucifixion owned by Delvoye’s father, twisted into helixes, Mobius strips or what the artist calls “pretzels”. Meticulous drawings of these projects hang on the walls, highlighted with pencils and watercolour.

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