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Home > World

Clean hands, dirty bastard

17 June 2005

Perhaps in an attempt to make themselves seem more human, more likeable; perhaps merely to express a side of their character which is suffocated by their chosen career, politicians throughout the ages have often attempted to express themselves artistically.

These days throw a rock into a room full of politicians and the chances are, the one you leave bleeding will also have published at least a couple of novels. Churchill and Hitler on the other hand, shared a passion for painting. Hitler also wrote poems. He was quite the aesthete. Oliver Cromwell meanwhile used to recite bawdy verse and dance about a bit, but only when he'd had a few ales. However, for all these dilettantes, only one politician has ever actually been physically transformed into a work of art. (Not counting the revolutionary Mussolini installation in 1946.) That privilege, we are pleased to report, goes to piano-playing ham and all-round villainous slime, Silvio Berlusconi.

That's right, the vainest and most successful crook in Italy has been made into a bar of soap. Not all of him of course, that would be madness. Just a bag of his blubber appropriated from a Lugano clinic where the Italian premier is believed to have had liposuction 18 months ago. Ordinarily, soap does not qualify as art - unless it's on a rope and bears an uncanny resemblance to Mr T -

But when it's been fashioned from the fat of practising pseudo-fascists, features in 'contemporary art's most influential trade fair' and has a price tag of around
12,000, it becomes art.

The soap is the work of Swiss artist Gianni Motti. Without so much as a civilised nod towards Fight Club, Motti says, 'I came up with the idea because soap is made of pig fat, and I thought how much more appropriate it would be if people washed their hands using a piece of Berlusconi.'

Surely more ironic than appropriate. It would be like us massaging a loved one, or indeed a prostitute, with essential Jeffrey Archer oils. The soap-work is entitled 'Mani Puliti', which translates as 'Clean Hands'. It is a reference to what was hyped at the time as a ground-breaking initiative to purge Italian politics of corruption in the early 1990s. Unfortunately the early 1990s was also more or less exactly midway between Berlusconi's two stints as Prime Minister. And he is, as we may have mentioned, a bare-faced fat-free felon, so it's all rather ironic. Incidentally, of the prime ministerial fat, Motti said: 'It was jelly-like and it stunk horribly, like rancid butter or stale cooking oil.'

Unfortunately, whilst Berlusconi has been quite open about having had his eyelids smoothed and sculpted, he denies ever having had the excess fat sucked from his body. So the whole thing could be bunk. Could be. Unsurprisingly, his denials have failed to convince the Italian press. This is partly
because the man is a pathological liar, and partly because when he came back from a short break about 18 months ago, he was suddenly 20 years lighter. One paper described him as looking like a cross between 'Boris Karloff and a baby'.

Meanwhile, the art/soap went on show/sale on Wednesday, and all over Italy foul-mouthed schoolchildren are trembling at the thought of a mouthful of Berlusconi. Showering prisoners are said to be even more upset.

Art is a Process

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