Recycling at a high level: artist Christoph Büchel turns manure into diamonds

Making gold out of sh … was yesterday. Making diamonds from the human waste product is level 2.0.

The Swiss artist Christoph Büchel (55) uses his own droppings as the basis for his precious stones. Carbon is extracted from the works of art, converted into graphite and pressed for several weeks under high pressure of 80,000 bar and temperatures of more than 1,800 degrees in a so-called growth cell. So-called seed diamonds, which are made from the artist’s DNA, are required as a shaping element for the newly growing diamonds.

“Artist shit” is pointedly stated in a message. That stands “symbolically for the authorship of the artist”. The high-pressure, high-temperature process imitates the growth process of natural diamonds in the earth’s interior, which would otherwise take billions of years. The results are chemically, physically, atomically and optically identical to natural diamonds.

▶ ︎ Büchel is known for provocative actions. In 2019 he caused a lot of talk at the Venice Biennale when he exhibited a shipwreck that hundreds of refugees from Libya had attempted to use to reach Europe. But an estimated 800 people died.

▶ ︎ Four years earlier, a mosque art project in a church had to close for the biennale. Büchel had built a mosque in a former Catholic church for the Icelandic pavilion.

▶ ︎ In 2010 the artist set up a swingers club in the Vienna Secession. And also the golden, four-meter-tall statue of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the 2018 Biennale in Wiesbaden went on Büchel’s cap, according to a spokeswoman.

Now, according to the information, he wants to compress all previous works of art that are in his possession – this includes his early youth works as well as all future works that remain unsold during the time of their exhibition – into rough diamonds. “The Diamond Maker – The Estate” will only be finished as a total work of art with Büchel’s death. Around 150 diamonds are to be added in the new year.

The whole thing is produced by JenaKultur / Art Collection Jena. A presentation in collaboration with the Fondazione Prada in Milan is under discussion.

It is not the first work made from artist excrement: 60 years ago, the Italian artist Piero Manzoni filled his faeces in cans and offered them for the gold price at the time. One of the cans with the label “Netto 30 grams of natural products, produced in May 1961” began to drip at an exhibition in a Danish art museum due to incorrect storage – the case ended up in court.


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