Commodity and excretion


“30 years spent working as scientist in a medical laboratory taught me that you can know a lot about a person from their shit.”

Commodification results in the alienation of things from both their creators and
those excluded from their appreciation by cost or restricted access. This is an idea most
famously articulated by Marx, who was influenced by the earlier work of Hegel and
Feuerbach (Marx 1847, Mandel and Novack 1973). In the context of this work, it relies
on the illusion of a separation of roles between creator/producer and performer and
audience. So, what then is commodified when ‘art’ is sold?

I resist commodification of the earth, the water and the air. I resist the
commodification of bodies, and labour. Why not, then, resist the commodification of
experience? Should I care about whether my work is a commercial or critical success? I
think not. For me, my work is an externalisation of an internal (sometimes conscious)
idea, it is in essence a form of excretion.

My work is shit. My head is full of shit, and the creative process is a way of relieving myself. However, 30 years spent working as scientist in a medical laboratory taught me that you can know a lot about a person from their shit. It’s a bonus if someone else likes it, or at least gets it, but a research outcome doesn’t have to be pretty. It’s part of the reporting my autoethnographic journey.

My personal experience over the whole of my life has been that the bottling up of this
decomposing material causes a build-up of mental toxins. This constipation leads to
distress and disease. All my life I have struggled with depression and anxiety because (I
thought) I was prevented from expressing this urge. Finally, I gave myself the necessary
permission to have healthier mental bowels. I communicated something of this in my
sound/video work, 53(2015) [This work was awarded joint first prize in the University of Auckland Lilburn Composition awards in October 2015].

No one tells a child that their painting is utter crap just because it is not technically
accomplished. We value it for what it represents as human expression. We do not attempt to commodify it, rather we love it for its naivety, lack of inhibition, and the sheer joy embodied in the process of its creation. The child embraces its technical constraints and nevertheless proceeds to create works with some inherent meaning to the child. Who will dare attempt to suck the joy out of that situation? And yet we are quick to label adults with the mythological attributes of being more or less “artistic”.


Mandel, E., & Novack, G. (1973).
The Marxist Theory of Alienation. Pathfinder Press.
Marx, K. (1847). Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts. Retrieved from
Woods, C. (2015). 53 [Sound/audio]. Retrieved from