Blocks of Poop by Santiago Sierra

The Spanish / Mexican artist Santiago Sierra has managed to create another piece of tasty bait for the media, with his exhibition of human excrement at London’s Lisson Gallery. The 21 blocks of shit each measure 215 x 75 x 20cm and was collected by “scavengers” in New Delhi and Jaipur, India.

blocks of shit

“Workers of the sanitary movement Sulabh International of India are mostly scavengers who, by birth, have to undertake the physically and psychologically painful task of collecting human faecal matter, being charged with the blames of a previous life of bad deeds.” Santiago Sierra

There’s a message that the artist wants to get across, which could be honorable or mocking, depending on which side of the fence you choose to sit. The optimist in me sees an artist highlighting the exploitation of a group of people that need a hand up. The cynic in me sees an artist doing something shocking for the sake of publicity (exploiting the media). The humorous me sees an artist shitting on the floor of an upmarket art gallery and laughing at those that take it seriously (exploiting the gallery and public).

I couldn’t figure out who was exploiting who in the end. If the objective of the exhibition was to get a lot of attention, it was a success, as I saw that most of the mainstream media publications had their fun with the story. It’s not something I would go and see though.

About Dion

Australian artist and observer of things.. all kinds of things. I like a wide variety of art, from the weird and wonderful to the bold and beautiful.. and everything in between.


  1. What a bunch of crap! Where’s the statement and where is the art? How freaking ridiculous. ok, I hear it now – it’s art is an artist makes it, it’s a concept, it’s displaying the plight of the lower caste, and where do you draw the line?

  2. Art News Blog says:

    Literally, a bunch of crap..

  3. I am with you from the various angles!

    While I understand the sentiment behind it, I don’t see that this will impact or move the rest of the world to care about the caste system in India, let alone even be aware of it.

  4. Visually I’m not bowled over by the artwork as it reminds me of alot of minimalist blocks I’ve seen already.

    Athough I might change my mind if I actually visit, I can image those large blocks of inert human waste to be quite intimidating, which is an experience in itself!

    It terms of it being a documentation of something which happens socially I find it more interesting.

    However I can see how this might seem problematic- expensive gallery showing the plight of third world caste system.

    Any type of documentation of people who are in difficulty can be perceived as patronising though, so it’s difficult territory to navigate.

    I think it’s just a reflection on the media and people in general that they jump on this kind of idea to prove contemporary art has no substance.

    Art that is unsuccessful in my eyes is art that does not make me think or visually engage me, what it is made from is part but not all of the story.

    I rather liked the Lisson Gallery’s slide show of the current exhibition, the ‘ This Entrance is Strictly Prohibited’ plaque by Santiago Sierra made me laugh!

  5. Helly, you triggered a thought, dang!!! LOL! there is something about the shape of them though! They remind one of huge tombs, no?

    Huge blocks of human excrement, which is what these people are viewed as.

  6. If it were allowed to smell at full power perhaps the statement would be louder.

  7. how do you know it doesn’t smell martin?

  8. Art News Blog says:

    In one of the articles on it somewhere, they said the poop had sat for a couple years, and is now about the same as dirt (with no smell).

    Maybe there’s an environmental message too, with composted blocks of poop, but I doubt it ;-)

    Helly, I was going to post the image of the plaque as it made me laugh! But I thought I better show the poop blocks.

  9. Jaffa:They are quite tomb like, they make me think of monuments a bit too, like Stonehenge. Or foundations (in a building blocks sense and a figurative sense) for society.

    Dion: The plaque is quite amusing, makes me think of private views at galleries (the pretentious ones!)and there’s this plaque with an alternative list of things you should be in order to visit.

  10. Anonymous says:

    all I can say is that you people talk a lot of shit .you must be nice and confi in your little home.

  11. Confi cozy and glad that I’m not living amongst my blocks of crap, yet!

  12. I think that this work of art is very powerful. It reflects the hardness and the injustice of some people who by birth need to collect human fecal mater in India. The viewer is faced with an incredible amount of fecal matter that stinks and can empatise with other people who do this as a duty by birth. This is a very strong work of art.


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