Wim Delvoye

(b. 1965)

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(1965– )

Belgian artist, born at Wervick. He has lived and worked in Ghent and London. His art is paradoxical and provocative: he is a Belgian eccentric with a sinister edge in the tradition of René Magritte and Marcel Broodthaers. Concrete Mixer (1993) recreates the object of the title in elaborately carved and painted woodwork. He has tattooed pigskins and live pigs with Baroque patterns. Compass Rose of Wind (1993) consists of four bronze figures on plinths arranged at the points of the compass. They pose with their buttocks pushed back, with fingers stopping their eyes and ears. A tube, which the viewer can peer right through, extends from their mouths to their anuses. The personification of the winds, as of other natural forces, is, of course, traditional in art and mythology. What this work achieves is to resuscitate that frightening sense of the loss of human identity which such representations entail. Delvoye is concerned with the interrelationship between different systems, human, mechanical, and animal. Cloaca (2000) and Cloaca Turbo (2003) take this project to an extreme point. They are elaborate machines, constructed with the aid of scientists from Antwerp University, which reproduce the human digestive system. (The latter example looks, paradoxically, like a series of washing machines.) Fed two meals a day, with moderate portions of alcohol and Coca-Cola to aid the digestive process, they produce real excrement. The idea of the machine taking over human functions, a dream and nightmare of modernity, has been taken to an absurd level. Delvoye has also exhibited X-ray photographs of sexual acts, reviving another tradition of allegorical representation, the memento mori, for the contemporary world.

Subjects: Art.

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