Although Chris Ofili won the Turner Prize in 1998 partly due to his elephant dung paintings, it’s fair to say that animal shit and art don’t often go together. But there are signs that might be changing, at least with respect to dog mess.
In a recent blog I mentioned Chéri Samba’s 1989 painting Paris est propre.
In this painting Samba depicts street cleaners of immigrant backgrounds cleaning up the dog mess on Paris’ streets. The text reads: ‘Paris is clean thanks to us, the immigrants, who don’t like seeing dog urine and shit. Without us, this city would perhaps be a slag heap of dog mess.’ As well as raising questions about inequality and race in postwar France, the painting is perhaps the first one to feature dog mess in a sustained way.
And a couple of weeks ago I took part in a Nerd Nite Brighton event (“evidence-based entertainment) on various aspects of turd. Artists from Eccleston George discussed their latest venture the National Poo Museum (based on the Isle of Wight). Here they are freeze drying a (fake) dropping to prepare it for display.
The day after Nerd Nite I gave a talk on dog mess in 1980s Paris alongside Neil Pemberton’s paper on dog mess in 1970s Britain at the Society for the Social History of Medicine conference at the University of Kent.
The conference artist, Frances Stanfield, produced a couple of drawings during the panel.
They nicely capture some of the visual aspects of dog mess histories: tapeworms, cysts, municipal signage, and the human-dog bond.
The quote ‘Stepping in dog shit is like painting’ is taken from the film Une Dérive Dans La Merde de Paradis by David Joseph Goteiner which I showed at the start of my talk. He has most fully explored the relationship between art and dog mess. He’ll shortly feature in a future blog. More art and dog mess to follow…