Magister Ludi (8): Craptions

By: Patrick Cates
June 29, 2010

While Yves Klein was imposing the monochrome and The Void upon a baffled French public in the late 50s and early 60s, his Italian analogue, Piero Manzoni, was causing similar consternation in Milan. He signed his name on naked women, he sold balloons full of his breath, and he made gallery-goers eat hardboiled eggs that carried his thumbprint. In his short career full of gestures like this, Manzoni laid another cornerstone in the nowadays fully constructed and deconstructed edifice of Conceptual Art. Marcel Duchamp had flushed modern art down the existential crapper thirty years before; Manzoni, seeing a bangers-and-mash mess of turd and toilet roll still stubbornly holding its ground, gave the toilet another flush. And no metaphor for describing Manzoni’s impact on the art world is more appropriate than a scatological one, since his most famous work, Merda d’Artista (1961), comprises 90 cans of his own shit.

In the picture above, Manzoni brandishes one of his cacky cans with the satisfied grin of a newly toilet-trained toddler. We can’t read the label on the can but the setting of the photograph tells us everything we need to know. At some point, we are invited to infer, Manzoni has curled one down and sealed it hermetically for the benefit of the art buff. But there is a Schrödingerian corollary to this inference: does the can actually contain his shit? Until it is opened we’ll never know.

With which short scato-philosophical reverie, you are invited to supply a caption to accompany the picture. Manzoni looks out at you with a certain Mona Lisa mystique. Whose toilet is this? What’s really in the can? Why are his pockets so large? Consider these questions the waste products of a digested thought dinner and allow them to inspire your search for a craptional nugget.


The rubric:

  1. As Lusor Ludi, your job is to formulate a caption that adds meaning, nonsense, seriousness, humour, commentary, or some combination of all, to the image.
  2. The Lusor Ludi who concocts the funniest and/or cleverest and/or most absurd caption, as judged by me, will be crowned Victor Ludi.
  3. The Victor Ludi will win a copy of The Idler’s Glossary (signed and personally dedicated by co-author and editor, Joshua Glenn).
  4. Lusores Ludi should add their captions as comments to this thread by 9PM EST on Sunday 11 July .
  5. There is no limit to the number of captions that each Lusor Ludi can submit.



What do you think?

  1. “I Can’t Believe it’s Not Shit.” (Now in Can Form at Participating Retailers Near You)

  2. Guaranteed free-range, non-hydroponic, genetically unmodified, organically grown color dyed, best-in-show. Homemade!

  3. “Now here’s your problem right here. You had this can of–I don’t know, some shit–blocking the u-bend. You need help reading instructions or are you just squeamish?”

  4. I realize that this is a contest, but we treat our comments sections like Letters to the Editor. So I’ve deleted a few entries, not because they were tasteless or offensive, but because they were (particularly, egregiously) lame.

  5. “Let me rephrase that. Do I look like the kind of guy who wouldn’t actually put shit in a can and sell it to rubes?”

  6. Duchamp described chess as the movement of pieces eating each other. I now present to you, anti-chess!

  7. Reason Why Unregulated Free Markets Suck and are Immoral #378: In pure economic terms, a jar o’something that may or may not be this man’s shit is equal to lunch and dinner for 22 homeless, hungry souls at your local Red Lobster for an entire year.

  8. You think someone spending $80,000 to buy a jar of something that may or may not be my crap is outrageous? M. Night Shyamalan just spent $150 million on the Last Airbender.

  9. “Kennai gochoo de lovvatree meese? I need to use the can.”

    “It’s all cans now again, is it, May dear? You’re not going anywhere with those cans!”

    (‘Can I go to the lavatory, miss?’ in a tone of toothless restroom-urgency talk you find with kindergärtners. ‘Can’ also being colloquial use for water closet. And a gruff grammar miss retorts, putting the lids on any canny talk)

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