VOHN gallery

VOHN serves as a platform for exhibitions, intellectual inquiry, and cultural exploration. With a focus on contemporary, contextual art within the gallery structure.

Art Healing Ministry presents:
Alexander Melamid’s
The Art of Plumbing

Dates: September 17, 2014 – October 17, 2013

Artist Statement:

Modernism in art began in earnest with that urinal, severed from the sewage system. It was a truly revolutionary act. 

In 1918 Maxim Gorky recalled a visit to the estate of a very rich friend. The property had been confiscated (or “appropriated,” in modern art parlance) by the Soviet government and populated with members of Red Army. What impressed Gorky most was that despite working indoor toilets, the whole imposing building had been fouled throughout with excrement. The estate’s entrance staircase was covered with frozen human feces. The grand drawing room and its precious Sèvre porcelain vases were filled with ordure.

A real revolution gives its participants great freedom to publicly relieve themselves (or to “express themselves,” in the language of art).

A minor revolution (or “farce,” to use Marx’s definition) was started in 1961 by the artist Piero Manzoni who sold a can of his own shit as art. 

Since then we have erected magnificent new museums with working toilets that nevertheless exist in a condition similar to that of the Gorky’s friend’s estate. Don’t forget that the purveyors of modernism in America were mostly Trotskyites. Permanent revolution was the cry of the day. Oh, those glorious days!

The artist and exalted revolutionary F. T. Marinetti wrote in those days: “Mother of a ditch, brimful with muddy water! … How I relished your strength-given sludge … When I got myself up – soaked, filthy, foul smelling rag that I was – from beneath my overturned car, I had a wonderful sense of my heart being pierced by the red-hot sword of joy.” Nowadays we call that art appreciation.

Having acquired the skills to wield both pipe and wrench, the artist Alex Melamid will successfully perform an aesthetic coupling that will flush the human as well as the elephant waste from our great museums. Once sent down the drain and into the sewage system, this effluvial excess will affront the senses of public no longer.

At the exhibition, a modern urinal will be connected to the sewage system of New York City and will be surrounded by traditional oil paintings of pipes, O-rings, couplings, cowls, and other devices necessary for maintaining a functional and highly effective plumbing environment as well as for the purpose of pleasing the aesthetic sense of New York’s discriminating viewers. 

Melamid is working on a libretto of a new opera, Der O-Ring des Nibelungen. The plot revolves around a magic O-ring that grants the power to rule the world by sealing the shutoff valve on a pipe that is leaking fecal matter into the River Rhine. The Valkyrie Brünnhilde – Siegfried's lover and Wotan's daughter who lost her immortality for defying her father in an attempt to save Siegfried's father Sigmund – returns the O-ring to the Rhine maidens with the financial help of America’s most prominent art collector, “R. L.” Brünnhilde commits suicide on Siegfried's funeral pyre. Hagen is drowned in ordure as he attempts to recover the O-ring. In the process, the gods and Valhalla are destroyed. Boom-boom, la-la-la!

This exhibition will liberate the space behind the sheetrock to examine the inner workings of the marvel of mass sanitation.  Plumbing will be revealed in all of its glory, through paintings, sculptures and a functioning toilet installation. Though widely admired in broad society, we felt that plumbing was getting short shifted by the art world.  The inhabitants of the art world, while constantly complaining about BS, would be well served to know that getting rid of the filth is just a flush away.  Once they experience the raw beauty of sewage systems, they will never think about pipes and O-rings the same way again.

ALEXANDER MELAMID (born 1945, Moscow, Russia) is a major artist who began his career in the Soviet Union of the mid 1960s.  He came to prominence in the 1980s as one half of the duo, Komar & Melamid, who were known for their creation of Sots Art, an influential Russian version of Pop Art that satirized Soviet Socialist Realism.  Many further projects were completed, including a landmark 1997 piece, People’s Choice, where the artists polled people in 17 countries around the world for their art preferences and painted works based on the statistical results.  The duo split in 2004, after which Melamid went on to re-engage with fundamentals of art, painting Velasquez-like portraits of modern ‘icons.’  In 2011, Melamid began an ongoing conceptual art project, The Art Healing Ministry, which is a practicing clinic where the power of art is used to heal the sick and afflicted. 

Melamid’s work is included in the collections of MoMA, The Metropolitan Museum, The Guggenheim Museum and The Victoria and Albert Museum, to name a few and was exhibited at Documenta 8 in 1987 and Venice Biennale 1999.

ART HEALING MINISTRY LLC is an organization dedicated to the treatment of human beings from physical, religious, psychological, and artistic afflictions using Art as an alternative to chemotherapy.