Everything about the contemporary is panda: Piero Manzoni 1961


Michal Martychowiec






47 × 37 × 3 cm



stone plate, recycled panda excrements



one request

Everything about the contemporary is panda: Piero Manzoni 1961

Any objects like excrements, blood, bodily fluids have a stigma of a taboo and would be normally considered at the very least unattractive. But then relics of saints which are their physical remnants are another story. In 1961 Piero Manzoni created a work developed from the concept of the readymade and closely linked to these ideas - “The artist’s shit”. A tombstone for Manzoni’s idea memorising the date of its creation 1961 is being decorated with a bookmark (appearing like a talisman) hanging from what looks like a broken nail. The bookmark is made of recycled panda excrements (as it read on the packaging “made with real panda poo”) and was purchased in a souvenir shop among many other products being advertised to be made of the same material.


In all works of the series Everything about the contemporary is panda, the panda avatar encounters themes and objects from our cultural history. We meet the Shroud of Turin, a wanderer above the sea of fog, the obligatory banana appears and the Italian classic artist Piero Manzoni, is set into the wall as a grave slab. In a series of conceptual photographs, we see the famous Berlin panda Bao Bao (currently displayed in the natural history museum) in combination with enigmatic text fragments. These fragments originate from contemporary and historic artists (Bethan Huws, Kazimir Malevich, Francisco de Goya, Joseph Beuys and others) and are used by Martychowiec as symbolic signifiers for certain (art) historical tendencies.

In Martychowiec’s work the panda is an unmasking symbol of decadence at the centre of a modernity that has long become empty. The panda stands for the last man at the end of history, bound between neoliberal normativity and the decoupling from his own historical-cultural becoming. As a pop cultural symbol, it is omnipresent and can also be interpreted as a medium of Chinese ‘soft-power’ politics. Pandas found their biological niche through a genetic mutation in the spine, which allowed them to sit comfortably. Bamboo, their primary food source, is poor in nutrients and must be eaten 16 hours a day. The species, which is already extinct in the wild, a museums piece, mostly lives in so-called panda villas. There they are looked after by guards and psychologists. The majority of reproductions occur through artificial insemination.

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