The Art of Grants and Excrement

georgie IILate in 2017, Australia Council chairman Rupert Myer spoke at length about the importance of art in everyday life. To this end he hailed the output of the arts community as “a source of national pride” while endorsing the current means by which grants are allocated. “Being arms-length from government with processes that are contestable, transparent and peer-reviewed, the Australia Council has always supported excellence, cultural democracy and audience engagement,” he opined. His remarks can be read in full here.

Intrigued by Mr Myer’s assertion that “the vast majority of Australians have a strong belief in the value of the arts” and dubious about the Australia Council’s concept of “excellence”, I decided to fill an idle hour by checking the latest grants, allocated in December, to artists resident in the Victorian seat of Gellibrand, where I make my home. The very first recipient checked in the most recent tranche of grants was a certain Ms Georgie Mattingley (above with the blue tongue), who received $10,000 under the auspices of “Arts Projects for Individuals and Groups”.

Unlike Ms Mattingley, Quadrant was stripped of its Australia Council funding.
The grant-backed arts community gets by with the extensive help of taxpayers.
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A quick Google brought up Ms Mattingley’s website, where her various endeavours are chronicled in quite some unsettling detail. One of her works, for example, is an audio clip of love songs in counterpoint to the muted squealing of doomed pigs in an abattoir. Given that she lists herself as an acolyte of Ivan Durant, who once asserted that the dead cow he dumped at the front door of the National Gallery Victoria was actually a sculpture, this is perhaps not much of a surprise.

What did come as a shock was Ms Mattingley’s interest in – there can be no mincing words here — the aesthetics of shit, which she explores in quite explicit detail. As she puts it:

Through various consultations with my GP, I discovered a method of producing brightly coloured stools by swallowing a liquid barium contrast called ‘Liquibar’.

These are the video stills from documentation of me swallowing, digesting and excreting the seven colours of the rainbow.

On another page she explains excrement’s potential as an artistic medium:

My brightly coloured faeces is dehydrated and cast into clear resin, along with semi-precious gemstones and plastic flowers.

These sculptures are intended to symbolically reverse regular processes of rejection and decay. Shit, that normally gets discarded and flushed away, is embraced as an object of beauty and value, archived as permanent remnants of my physical existence.

When I die, my body and I will be gone, but my shit will still be here, glowing from inside its crystal dome.

Readers interested in Ms Mattingley’s output can do so by following this link. The pictures are so graphic, Quadrant Online has placed the nastiest of them on a separate page, giving readers the option of looking or not.

In an effort to understand how Minister for the Arts Mitch Fifield feels about poo art and public funding of those who produce it, the questions below have been sent to his office and are awaiting a response. As of the time this post went up at Quadrant Online no response had been received, nor even an acknowledgement they had been received. When and if the Minister for Arts responds his reply will be posted as an update.

1/ What is his position on “sh*t art” — the real sort, not the metaphoric variety?

2/ Should taxpayers be underwriting art of this nature?

3/ Will the Minister determine which of Ms Mattingley’s “peers” recommended and endorsed her application for an OzCouncil grant?

4/ Is Ms Mattingley a peer who, in her turn, recommends others for Arts Council grants?

5/ What is the role of art in modern society, and more specifically, what is the role of government funding in promoting art and what kind of art?

6/ Several years ago, the Australia Council cut off Quadrant‘s funding without warning and in its entirety. That money went solely toward our literary and poetic pieces. Given that Quadrant was cut off and Ms Mattingley funded, does the Minister believe that sh*tting in rainbow hues is a more worthy exercise than the poetry of Les Murray and Clive James?

7/ Does the Minister exercise any control, exert any influence whatsoever, on the dispersal of half-a-billion dollars in taxpayer art dollars, or is his involvement limited to saying nice things about artists and art at award ceremonies?

8/ Does the arts funding regime need to be reformed?

9/ Is the Minister aware of an average sum paid in taxes by a typical Australian — Treasurer Morrison might be of assistance here — and, if so, how many taxpayers were obliged to get up, go to work and have part of their gross earnings re-directed to support Ms Mattingley’s bowel movements?

10/ If the Minister does not support the notion that sh*t is art and yet can do nothing to stop the public funding of bohemian bowel movements, will he resign?

Roger Franklin edits Quadrant Online. He shuts the door and remembers to flush when attending to his bowels.

  • brian.doak@bigpond.com

    If Minister of Arts Mitch Fifield thinks funding of Ms Mattingley is preferable to funding Quadrant then it might be reliably said that he doesn’t know his arts from his elbow!
    Some might construe that the photo of Ms Mattingley could really be her practising autocoprophagy.

    • Jody

      The fact that the ‘artist’ works in excrement is a ready indicator of the worth of the ‘work’. It can be placed beside Duchamp’s “Urinal” at the Tate Modern. There we can be free to speculate about the conjoint themes of consumption, excrement and disposal. Then, feeling suitably flushed, I can have a good lie down in Tracy Emin’s “Unmade Bed”. Who needs Bach when you can explore human excrement?

      As Jordan Peterson says, “grow the hell up”.

  • Tricone

    The fact that it insults taxpayers is probably considered a bonus and quite hilarious to the artist.

    Australia’s publicly-funded art is mediocre and uninspiring.
    How could it be otherwise?

  • bruceheilbuth

    The whole system’s gone aflush, they call it a chain reaction.

  • Rob Macaulay

    Minister Fifield and the contents of your article are such good examples of what is wrong in this country that I just read your article to my wife and children (after dinner!). As keen amateur artists, the kids (7 and 11) are happy to shit in a bag and send it to the Minister for any reasonable remuneration. Indeed, they would do so on a regular basis if some of my taxes are returned each time.
    Given that I have just spent two years on the ABC Advisory Council and the Minister would not during any of that time return a phone call or email, I dare say you’ll be waiting a while for any reply to your perfectly relevant questions.

  • Andrew Griffiths

    Do you think she will start a movement?

  • Alex sagin

    It has nothing to do with an art. It is called coprophilia or scatophilia, simple. Any GP shoud refer her to psychiatrist, not to prescribe barium.

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