How to approach a music release that comes accompanied by 3 baggies of dog feces?
In 2004, the iconoclastic artist Rudolf Eb.er, who records under the name Runzelstirn & Gurgelstøck, put out a mini-CDR that was accompanied by three bags of “original shit by Eb.er’s dog.” It was called Hirnstamm, Kotloch Und Scheisse, which translates via Google to “Brain stem, fecal hole and shit.”
Rudolf is no stranger to edgy antics, having adorned previous records with artwork depicting graphic sexual acts and disfigured bodies. On one noteworthy occasion, he released an anti-record called Roto Tract which was just an industrial grinding wheel; playing it on your turntable would gradually destroy your stylus, cartridge, and tone-arm.
Rudolf himself has been involved in experimental art and music for years, having formed the radical Schimpfluch-Gruppe collective in Zurich in 1989, whose “confrontational, physically demanding performances and shock treatments remove the boundaries of the body and open up accesses to the collective unconscious.”*
Indeed, the Schimpfluch-Gruppe’s actions have pushed boundaries. One infamous Runzelstirn & Gurgelstøck performance, “For Stringquartet and Asstrumpet,” features a string quartet played next to Rudolf’s frequent collaborator, Kaori Yakushinji, who screams gruesomely as she inserts a tube into her rectum.** That one is collected on a 2000 CD called Asshole / Snail Dilemma (Tochnit Aleph), which came in a jewel case “with human hair protruding from underneath the CD tray.”
Curious about the strange Hirnstamm, Kotloch Und Scheisse, I emailed Rudolf to clarify the story behind the release, and he generously provided a bunch of background regarding the concept and his methods. He explained that he created the packaging while living in Osaka, Japan. He collected the feces while walking his dog, then finished off the packaging and sent it to Björn Liebmann, proprietor of the Leipzig-based record label, Scrotum Records, who added the discs themselves and put them up for sale.
“Every copy was made the similar way and all of them included 3 packed samples of dog feces,” he explained. “The feces were collected during walks with my dog Chi. The completed covers for the entire edition were sent to Björn in Leipzig, who added the disc. I don’t know if this was the first ever record release to incorporate real feces. I’m not aware of any other release with real feces. As a painter, actionist and audio artist it was a natural process to come to this packaging. It is another step from the previous packing I made.”
Though he had heard of the work of visual artist Andres Serrano, who shocked the art world by submerging a crucifix in a container of urine, he denies taking conceptual inspiration from this work. Instead, he says Hirnstamm‘s design was purely an aesthetic decision. “I do not understand this packaging as anything shocking or controversial (for healthy minded people – sick people may be shocked). It came from entirely aesthetic reasons. The contrasts of the brown-black-green-reddish colors and the form/structure versus the plain white paper and minimalist lettering.”
He recalls the great efforts that was required to put this release together, saying there were a total of 100 copies made. “It took me a while to collect enough dog feces. But then again not forever. My dog Chi was a Husky / Shepard mix, not a small dog and with a big appetite. My woman helped me packing the feces I collected into zip-locks.”
Thinking back, he is proud to have disseminated this unique release, copies of which live on to this day. “It was my idea and I am very happy to see several friends and collectors having this release still now displayed on their home walls,” he tells me. “I was told they sensed a slight scent in their rooms but weren’t bothered by it. The release was made 13 years ago and most copies I saw recently do still look pretty good. No scent left I’d say.”