what, he couldn't get a grant for this?

This is the dumbass whose previous project was to key cars and call it his "creative process".

Gushing Faucet Could Land Artist in Court

The gushing faucet is an expensive exhibition that could waste about 3.9 million gallons of water. It could also land McGowan in a legal battle with Thames Water, the utility company. The circular sink has already swallowed about 193,000 gallons of water during a season declared the driest in London since 1976.

The project has outraged Thames Water, which said it could cost about $23,320 if the faucet runs for 365 days. The water company pleaded with McGowan to close the tap, but in vain. "I think he certainly made a point," said Thames Water Spokeswoman Hilary Bennett. "We understand where he's coming from and we're sympathetic to that. However, he should turn it off now."

After two angry Londoners shut the tap off, McGowan turned it back on. "If you're going to waste some water, you might as well waste it for a year," McGowan said. "It's always good to complete projects."

The House Gallery is currently responsible for paying the water bill and has stood behind McGowan's artistic endeavors. Even so, they can't afford to pay for the tiny cascade that wastes about 9,200 gallons a day. "The gallery probably couldn't foot the bill for an entire year," said volunteer Sarah McIntyre. "We're sort of taking a risk, because we're pretty poor."

The silver sink is the same basin that gallery volunteers use to make tea or wash a plate. The dish soap still sits nearby, ready for an after-lunch cleanup. But just in case anyone forgets, a hand scrawled note taped just above the sink reads: "If you find the tap off please could you turn it on and leave it running. Thanks."

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38 Responses:

  1. jesus_x says:

    I love cool art as much as the next guy, but some things just aren't art. This is one of them. They keying cars, not art. Elephant dung on a canvas, that COULD be art, but that artist just threw it, so also not art. "Piss Christ", while that WAS art, it was just for the shock value, so it wasn't all that great. It's like obscenity, you know it when you see it. A sink with running water? Come on dude, TRY a little.

  2. fo0bar says:

    The gallery is even stupider, me thinks. "We're going to let this freak run the water all day, every day. We can't afford to pay the water bill, so I guess we won't, and we'll just hope it all works itself out."

    • AFAIK they probably pay a flat water rate, so legally they wouldn't have to pay the full cost. Whether that makes it responsible is another question, but it's certainly got the issue in the papers...

      • lovingboth says:

        I doubt it - at work, we'd love to have a flat-rate charge because we've a low business rate for the property, but we had to have a water meter as a condition of getting a supply.

        I'm not sure if they're quite there yet around here, but the water companies want to install a meter whenever any property without one changes hands.

        • boggyb says:

          At home I've got unmetered water. I believe Southern Water are pushing meters, but if you got your house before they were introduced then you don't have to have one and you can stay with a flat rate. I think if you use less than a certain amount of water then a meter makes sense as it's cheaper.

          BTW, what I think we should do with this guy is stick a hosepipe on that tap. Hey presto, hosepipe ban violation, and that's a fine or whatever from the water company!

  3. lovingboth says:

    This is the Thames Water that loses the equivalent of 366 Olympic sized swimming pools every day through leaks, mostly in London.

    That's 915 million litres a day, or over 241 million US gallons.

    The installation is, in part, a protest about that.

    • Don't protests usually go against what they're protesting?

      'I hate war! I'm going to bomb six countries to show how much I hate war!'

      • quercus says:

        This is an artist we're talking about.

        It's a great idea for a piece - I really like the subject matter. But just as you say, a bad artist is protesting against <foo> by doing some more <foo>.

        A good artist wouldn't need to do this. They'd drill an artesian well next to an already leaking watermain (these aren't hard to find in London) and build a fountain powered by the waste itself.

      • lovingboth says:

        Thames used to be publicly owned and the overwhelming bulk of its infrastructure was paid for by London residents. It was sold off in 1989, and deliberately underpriced by the then Conservative government in order to claim a 'successful' privatisation.

        Since then, it has acquired a mountain of debt and - not entirely coincidentally - paid out several billion pounds in dividends to shareholders. Being a private company with a pile of debt mean it costs them more to borrow money: about a quarter of my water bill just goes to pay dividends and interest charges.

        That money could and should have been spent on things like reducing the leakage: around a quarter of all water leakage in the whole of England and Wales happens in London.

        Last year, Thames had profits before tax of £256.5m on a turnover of £1,177.7m. For an absolutely essential utility, that's obscene. Personally, I'd tell them to sort out the problems, now, or be brought back into public ownership on the grounds of health and safety.

        If this installation - which is generating a water bill for more than the cost of supplying the water, remember - gets people talking about the situation, great. One of the justifications of labelling things as 'art' is their ability to provoke discussion about the issues, and this one's certainly done that.

      • hafnir says:

        If you're familiar with Laibach, one of their DVD's explains they used all the fascist artistry earlier in their career as a protest against the dictatorship they were under at the time. Instead of arguing against it, they assumed it and exposed it to scrutiny.

        Re this project, I started out against the guy, but reading all the comments I'm actually kinda for it now. He should still have to pay for the keyings though.

    • jkonrath says:

      Don't all major metropolitan water systems leak some huge amount of water like that? I seem to remember reading the same story in NYC a while back.

      The numbers in that article are largely useless without knowing the total amount of water they push. For all I know, that number by percentage might be lower than the amount of water I waste every day brushing my teeth.

      • lovingboth says:

        Almost a third of the water Thames Water put into their pipes never reaches the taps - it's lost in leaks.

      • quercus says:

        They all leak a huge amount - But Thames is a _really_ huge amount. They're also dodging the issue of fixing it and being far too ready to hand out dividends and performance bonuses (what the hell for?), rather than spending on maintenance.

    • jesus_x says:

      Silly me, thinking the article would mention that.

  4. baconmonkey says:

    Someone needs to create an artistic piece entitled "Bruised Ego".
    Medium: Fists on Mark McGowan flesh.

    He should be grateful to be part of the creative process.

    • flipzagging says:

      Here's the man himself. Email address and phone number too!

      Mark McGowan

      • tfofurn says:

        `Basically its an art piece for people to come and look at and enjoy aesthically, it is also a comment on a social and environment issue.'

        They'll come, they'll look, they'll go to the bathroom after a few seconds, consuming even more water.

        I also like his complete failure to explain what social and/or environmental issue. He knows it's not art without one or the other, but it's up to the reader to find it!

        Oh, and did McGowan miss the spelling or pronunciation of "aesthetically", or was that the webmaster?

  5. I'd call it art if he drowned himself in it.

  6. That is funny, I'm gonna go water my lawn and poop in some water.

  7. jonabbey says:

    He could always rig up special plumbing so that the water that goes through the tap is captured at the sink's drain and pumped back to the tap, making a more-or-less closed system. You'd need to flow some additional water into it to keep the system from eventually drying up through evaporation, but it'd be a small fraction of the water the thing is now using.

    Of course, that would probably diminish the shock value of the artistic statement.

    • ultranurd says:

      I was thinking the same thing.

      If you told everyone it was connected like a normal tap, how would they know?

      • flipzagging says:

        I had the same thought. That would explain why the gallery was so blithe about its water bill.

        Apparently his car-keying stunt was a hoax, or so he claims now. No cars actually injured in the making of the artwork.

        The guy says his life was ruined and yet he goes on to do this just a few months later. Hmm.

        • wfaulk says:

          In 2003, he used his nose to push a monkey nut seven miles to 10 Downing Street in protest against student debt.

          He also rolled on pavements for four miles across London singing Christmas carols to highlight the work of office cleaners.

          I can see how that might be effective, what with the way former students are often relegated to banal monkey-nut-pushing jobs. I also love the way the janitors at my office suddenly break into impromptu circus tumbling acts (although they're more likely to perform an a capella version of Vjezd gladiÃ

  8. pavel_lishin says:

    I guess as long as he can pay for it, he can waste whatever he wants.

    Seriously, though, this is why I hate most art. :(

  9. wfaulk says:

    He followed this up by sitting in a bathtub full of baked beans with chips up his nose and sausages around his head, claiming to be the defender of the full English breakfast.

    • phoenixredux says:

      I was wondering when someone would trot out Ms. Cheesy-Poofs after I read that bit about the baked beans. :)

    • sherbooke says:

      According to my sources - a guy who saw the beans exhibition - he said it stank the place out. Quite why McGowan would want to "defend the English full breakfast" I don't know, as you can get this crappy generic meal anywhere in England, probably 24/7.

      The car idea I like. That strikes at the heart of mondeo man. Also the peanut idea - that involved sweat at least.

      The water exhibit. My same source said that it was turned off the last time he went to visit that gallery. If McGowan wanted to make a real point, then he would have welded the tap open. But profligacy to protest profligacy? Nah.

      Each time, McGowan's stuff is tethered to a "protest", as if to try to "legitimise" his work in an art-world way: the art-work transgresses therefore it must be a "legitimate", saleable aesthetic artifact for the avant garde. To me there's little aesthestic shock, which was one of the main planks of the DuChamp and we're way past DuChamp. Of course, DuChamp shocked morally *as well* which was his genius. The keys work shocks morally as well as having an aesthetic charge with the scratches against the manufactured body. Ok, so the key scratches won't have the same effect as a toilet bowl. At least he's trying in this instance.

  10. 1eyedkunt says:

    i like what he does. i think it's neat.

    • GAK!

      since you JUST walked into my room, saw i was reading this post, said the exact same thing, then walked out right before i scanned to the last comment and read THIS, i have now officially entered a strange loop.

  11. sherbooke says:


    "A surprising face saver has emerged: the gallery has just received an email inquiry from the United States about buying both the tap and the sink - and replacing them with somewhere to fill the kettle and wash the coffee mugs - in order to recreate the work in exile."

    I do hope it's going to be installed somewhere in Arizona or New Mexico. That would make it just a tad extra obscene.