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Shooting the Shit With Andres Serrano

Piss Christ artist Andres Serrano’s new show at Yvon Lambert Gallery is simply and appropriately titled “Shit,” featuring 66 weirdly gorgeous photos of dooty produced by dogs, jaguars, bulls, and the artist himself. “I wanted to take a close-up look at shit,” he told us last night at Bowery Hotel following a dinner in his honor. Why? Serrano gave us the straight poop.

So, are you over piss?
I was done with piss twenty years ago. It took me twenty years to realize that I had to do shit. It’s funny because someone once asked where would I draw the line for myself, “What wouldn’t you work with?” And I said I won’t work with shit. That was many years ago. Now, I’ve realized that it makes sense. Not only was I meant to do this show, I was meant to do it the way that I’ve done it. I feel that I’ve done the definitive work on shit, and I feel very happy that I’ve claimed shit as my own.

How is it definitive?
It’s 68 images altogether. People have said shit has been used before — Manzoni, shitting in a can — but you know what? First of all, there’s a debate as to whether there’s shit in those cans, and second of all, you don’t see the shit. These are close-up images of shit. A serious investigation.

Can you talk about how it’s abstracted from its sensory component? I was just talking with a collector inside who was saying that when she saw the images, she almost imagined the smell — she couldn’t separate the two.
My intention in doing this project was to take a close-up look at shit. When, you know, shit is relatively small, to look at it close up, you have to magnify it a lot. When you get that close to something, you do abstract it. I was wise to see the depth of beauty and diversity in working with shit. And in that sense, I’m very pleased with the results. They even surpass what I expected.

What were you expecting? What surprised you in working with it?
I was surprised because I didn’t know what I would find. You become almost like a scientist. You have a very clinical approach to making your work, and you don’t let the smell bother you or disgust you. In that sense, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. I think I’ve done such a good job that other artists will say, “Why didn’t I think of this?” because I make it look easy.

Do you think art’s shit? What do you think of the art world here in New York right now?
In a way, it’s all shit. It’s all relative. There’s good shit, there’s bad shit. There’s interesting shit. There’s spectacular shit. I haven’t looked at anybody’s shit in a long time. There’s this point as an artist, where you sort of withdraw from the rest of the world and you’re not interested in what other people are doing. I don’t care what’s going on.

So you don’t give a shit. Were you paying any homage to Manzoni in doing this project?
Manzoni wasn’t the guy — I came up with this idea when I was watching Borat doing the nude wrestling scene. All of a sudden, I kicked myself — I was like, Oh shit! I love Sacha. I think we would connect. I loved Ali G. I love Bruno. So, I’m a big fan of his since I discovered him three or four years ago.

Were you doing this to be funny?
There’s something funny about it. There’s no real funny shit in the show. The whole thing’s kind of funny, when you think about it. This is my shit. I wanted to see people on the planet right now say, “When he’s talking about his shit, he means it literally.”

Earlier: ‘Piss Christ’ Photographer Andres Serrano Craps Out Some New Art

Shooting the Shit With Andres Serrano