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The Poop Machine

    According to an article in WiredNews on-line, Wim Delvoye, an artist from Belgium, has created a mechanical replica of the human digestive system. His machine, called "Cloaca" (after the name of the sewer in ancient Rome, "cloaca maxima") is now on display at the New Museum in New York (through April 28).

    Cloaca is big -- about 80 feet long. It "eats" and "digests" two meals a day. (Feeding time is at 11:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m.) Real food is dropped down a funnel into a meat grinder (simulating the teeth). The ground-up food is then pumped into six glass containers containing human digestive juices and enzymes, where it is "digested". The solid waste, which looks and smells very much like human poop, is deposited onto a conveyer belt. This manufactured poop travels to the end of the machine where it drops out the back at 2:30 p.m. the following day. (The U. S. Department of Health insisted on having a glass case installed around the rear opening to protect on-lookers.)

    Delvoye's message is that no matter what differences people have on the outside, in tastes, beliefs, or other physical attributes, we all have nearly identical digestive systems: food goes in and poop comes out. One of the curators of the exhibit also points out that although the machine itself is very high tech, made of metal and glass, the contents inside are organic and very messy. Symbolically, this shows that no matter what scientific advances we make, we are still made of flesh and blood and need food to survive.

    And after the New Museum, where next for Cloaca? Delvoye has already received requests from a diaper manufacturer's research department. Delvoye has turned them down -- so far.

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