1. An early version of this essay presented at the Visible Evidence XVI Conference was co-written by Maria Fosheim Lund. Her contributions during the formative stages of this essay remained a key influence throughout my rethinking and expansion of this essay. Her presence was instrumental in finding the footing for this essay and I remain grateful for her contributions. I also have to thank the editors of Jump Cut (Chuck Kleinhans, Julia Lesage, and John Hess) for their detailed comments, support, and patience throughout my rewriting of this essay. And I want to thank Nico Baumbach for his guidance throughout my revisions. Our discussions continually pushed my ideas forward while finding greater clarity and confidence in my writing. Finally, I want to thank Martin Creed, Martin Creed Studios, and Hauser & Wirth for their commitment to this project. I first contacted them about this essay in the fall of 2007 and they have been incredibly generous through each step of this unexpectedly long process. [return to page 1 of essay]
2. It is worth noting that many of these works listed above have long been associated within the realm of art history, while others would fall into film discussions, and never the twain shall meet. This list is intended to highlight the use of shit and vomit in traditions referred to as art and not as a means to conflate the discourses. Few people were placing Pink Flamingos alongside Paul McCarthy or the Actionists at the time of its release, and it is not necessarily my intention to do so in this essay. My intention is not to conflate distinct traditions, but to see how they can inform one another and how contemporary artists, working in a number of different fields, are thinking through these various traditions in their work. I will argue Martin Creed does so quite explicitly. Furthermore, I will discuss these traditions later in this essay, which should help offset any worries of an attempted destruction of distinct fields.
3. Of course, there is an equally long tradition of vomit and shit in mainstream film, particularly in comedies.
4. This group listing of many of art works which have incorporated feces and vomit is not to suggest that each is used similarly or that they are used for the same purposes.
5. The most notable example of anti-YBA backlash is the foundation of the Stuckists art movement in 1999 by Billy Childish and Charles Thompson. Their outspoken critiques of Charles Saatchi, the art dealer who represents and promotes many of the highly praised YBAs, and demonstrations against the Turner Prize have given rise to their stature, although Anti-Stuckist groups have also been active since the group’s formation. As of 2009, Stuckism had become an international movement with 202 groups in 48 countries.
6. Each time Half the air in a given space is installed, it is given a new Work No. since the space of each given room would be different. Thus, I have not included a specific Work. No.
7. Examples of these songs are “Short G,” “Up and Down,” “Circle,” “Low,” “High,” and “Nothing.” The music follows the path set forth by the titles.
8. Anderson, Zoe. “A brand new Creed: The Turner prize-winner turns choreography,” in The Independent (UK), Oct. 15 2009.
9. I list Work. No 405 as the number for Ships Coming in, but, as with many of Creed’s film and videos, he creates slightly different variations on the work that are each given a separate number. I use Work. No 405 because it appears on his website, but there are other numbered works with the same title that use the same footage in a different manner. This problem will also be encountered with Sick Film and Shit Film.
10. It is important to note Creed’s switch from shooting on video to shooting on film. Even in regard to the video installations, Creed’s main reason for shooting on 35mm was “because I wanted it to be high quality and the colours and shapes to be well rendered.”
11. Creed actually shot 19 different people getting sick - mostly students from London - but decided to use 10 because he “didn’t want the film to be too long and [he] didn’t want any fillers; I wanted each person to be different” (Kent).
12. Martin Creed interview by Sarah Kent in Time Out London. Nov. 10 2006. (http://www.timeout.com/london/art/features
13. I mean this from a popular culture point of view, but it is certainly not always the case. Scat pornography goes against this idea by primarily featuring women. This could be argued as a role reversal from popular culture. If shitting is understood as male, it could be more interesting to see women in relation to shit. [return to page 2]
14. Though Creed was in the room during the filming of Sick Film, he decided against being present for the filming of Shit Film saying it seemed to voyeuristic.
15. Using a process such as this, we can see Creed’s own meditations on his own forms of “creation” in his art. The films can serve as an extended metaphor of the artist dealing with the art that comes out of them.
16. In this case, the process is a literal bodily process – the shit and vomit are “created” and therefore art – as well as a creative process behind the film. This paradox between the artist and the spectators is an essential component to the films and Creed’s body of work.
17. Takahashi, Tess. “Impure Film: Medium Specificity and the North American Avant-Garde (1965-2005),” p. 25-26.
18. It is notable that Abramovich’s recent retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art includes re-performances of her performances by trained performers. Insodoing, Abramovich calls into question my assumption here that performances performed by an artist are distinctly that artist’s performance. If the action can be reperformed, then who does the performance “belong” to? This is an ongoing question in the “preservation” of performance art and one that begs for further analysis and theoretical inquiry.
19. Gunning, Tom. “The Cinema of Attractions: Early Cinema, its Spectators, and the Avant-Garde” in Early Cinema: Space, Frame, Narrative (ed. Thomas Elsaesser,1990), p. 58.
21. Martin Creed interview by Sarah Kent in Time Out London. Nov. 10 2006. (http://www.timeout.com/london/art/features
22. Anderson, Aaron.“Kinesthesia in martial arts films: Action in Motion,” in Jump Cut 42. Dec. 1998. 6. Anderson quotes the term from John Martin’s description of metakinesis. Martin uses mental and psychical interchangeably, but seems to prefer the latter.
23. Ibid., 13.
24. Macdonald, Scott. “Demystifying the Female Body – Anne Severson Near the Big Chakra, Yvonne Rainer – Privelege,” in Film Quarterly (volume 45, n. 1, Fall 1991): 18.
25. Creed’s Work No. 730 - Sex Film is his most sexually explicit film and could be found to have interesting parallels to the films of Severson and Stark, as well as early traditions in queer filmmaking like James Broughton’s Hermes Bird (1979). Sex Film is black & white and features a close up of the sex act between a male and female. Unlike pornographic sexual representations, however, Sex Film shows the penis being inserted into the body followed by the non-stop thrusting. The film continues showing this motion without a climax. The sex act, therein, is seen as a repetitive and clinical process when there is no evident climax. In May 2010, Creed premiered a new (black & white) film in which a penis becomes erect. A live violinist plays scales that correspond with the ascending or descending penis. Going along with the previous titles given to Creed’s films, I call this Dick Film. It continues Creed’s exploration of corporeal repetition and rhythm.
26. In an interview I conducted with Nicole Keller of Hauser & Wirth, she confirmed that when shown in galleries or museums, Sick Film (Work No. 610) and Shit Film (Work No. 660) are always split into individual works and given status as completely different works by Creed who ascribes each individual piece its own number. Most often, one individual “performer” projected onto a screen in a continuous loop. In other instances, Creed has made a group of multi-monitor pieces shown on Sony PVM-2730QM monitors. Sick Film (Work. No 610) and Shit Film (Work No. 660) are the 35mm originals, while Work Nos. 548, 503, 600, 546, and 837 are all individual gallery pieces taken from the 35mm original and shown on DVD or HD in museums.
27. Nichols, Bill. Representing Reality: Issues and Concept in Documentary (Indiana University Press, 1992): ix. [return to page 3]
28. Peirce, WS. "Logic as Semiotic: the Theory of Signs." Philosophical Writings of Peirce. Ed. Justus Bucher. New York: Dover, 1955. 102.
29. Wahlberg, Malin. Documentary Time: Film and Phenomenology (University of Minnesota Press, 2008): 7.
30. Ibid., 6.
31. Rosen, Philip. Change Mummified: Cinema, Historicity, Theory (University of Minnesota Press, 2001): 20.
32. Ibid., 20-21.
33. Sobchack, Vivian. “Toward a Phenomenology of Nonfictional Film Experience,” in Collecting Visible Evidence (ed. Jane Gaines and Michael Renov; University of Minnesota Press, 1999): 241.
34. Ibid., 243.
35. Wahlberg, 16.
36. Ibid., 39. In making this argument, Wahlberg directly references similar arguments made by Paul Ricoeur and Martin Heidegger.
37. Gaines, Jane. “Everyday Strangeness: International Oddities as Documentary Attractions” in New Literary History, Volume 33, Number 4, Autumn 2002: 1.
38. Ibid., 5.
40. Ibid., 8.