Pistoletto's Rubbish

Screenprint on mirror finish stainless steel

2000 x 1000 mm


In the early 1960s, Michelangelo Pistoletto made his first mirror paintings. They weren’t really mirrors, as they were done on large sheets of polished steel, and they weren’t really paintings, because the ‘floating’ figures they depicted were photographs printed on tissue (and later silk screens) applied to the metal surfaces. What they were – and still are – was platforms which spectacularly embodied the world (and all its artifice) through their reflection. The same could be said for Gavin Turk; who not only appropriates historical artists’ works, but their entire mythologies, for his own-brand celebrity, refracting art world legends – such as Pistoletto’s mirror paintings – for democratized progress and use. Substituting Pistoletto’s casually posed models with his own trademark bin bag – a punk-ethos anti-logo Turk’s previously reproduced in prints and stickers, monumentalised in trompe l’œuil bronze sculptures – Turk literally overlays Pistoletto’s legacy with his own. Maths being a favoured systematology in Arte Povera’s metaphysical quest, Turk revitalizes and trumps Pistoletto’s epitomized art/life merger with the end-game logic of +1. Mirror + bin bag, Pistoletto + Turk = art’s tautological lineage, performative re-enactment, and a certain Darwinian progress of artistic ego. But most importantly +1, by its very essence, is infinite. For Pistoletto, his ‘paintings’ functioned something like real-time theatre: his static figures wittily claiming the reflected gallery space as a stage, and viewers as veritas subjects; his mirrors less objects than mystical portals to a parallel present. Humorously titled Pistoletto’s (Rubbish/Waste/Bag), Turk’s tributes reflect the now as a bridge between past and future – as both consequence and prescience – transposing the gallery to a scene of hyper-consumerist apocalypse, where garbage becomes elevated to masterpiece in the hallowed white cube, and artworks and viewers luxuriantly bask in their own expenditure. Turk’s bin bag motif was originally created in the late 1990s as part of a series of work engaging with themes of homelessness. Transferred to Pistoletto’s visionary 1960s framework – heavy mirror and inky decal today seem a quaintly Luddite attempt at virtuality – Turk offers the overlooked and discarded, redundant and obsolete, as provocatively contemporary proposals. Presented as a single panel, Pistoletto’s Rubbish (2013), simulates the format of an altarpiece: a site of reverence, of stark confrontation, of our cultural values, fetishizations, desires, and excesses; of the world – featuring ourselves, via brand-Turk, as transients in the spectacle.