Art and Destruction
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Most talk of and writing on art is about its relationship to creation and creativity. This of course takes various forms, but ultimately the creative act in the making of art works is a key issue. What happens when we put together art and destruction? This has been referenced in some major areas, such as that of art and iconoclasm and auto-destructive art movements. Less evident are accounts of more intimate, smaller scale 'destructive' interventions into the world of the made or exhibited art object, or more singular and particularised approaches to the representation of mass destruction. This volume addresses these lacunae by bringing together some distinct and very different areas for enquiry which, nevertheless, share a theme of destruction and share an emphasis upon the history of twentieth and twenty-first century art making. Scholars and makers have come together to produce accounts of artists whose making is driven by the breaking of, or breaking down of, matter and medium as part of the creative materialisation of the idea, such as Richard Wentworth, Bourke de Vries, Cornelia Parker, to name some of those artists represented here, and, indeed in one case, how our very attempts to write 'about' such practices are challenged by this making process. Other perspectives have engaged in critical study of various destructive interventions in galleries. Some of these, whether as actual staged actions in real time, or filmic representations of precarious objects, are understood as artistic acts in and of themselves. At the same time, an account included in this volume of certain contemporary iconoclasts, defacing or otherwise effecting destructive attempts upon canonised exhibited art works, reflects upon these destructive interventionists as self-styled artists claiming to add to the significance of 'works' via acts of destruction. Yet other chapters provide a fresh outlook upon distinctive and unusual approaches to the representation of destruction, in terms of the larger scale and landscape of artistic responses to mass destruction in times of war. This book will be of interest to readers keen to encounter the range of nuance, complexity and ambiguity applicable to the bringing together of art and destruction.
gravity. The shattered plate is left on the floor of the gallery until the next day, when it is replaced with a new one. The ambiguity of this work, the duping of the visitor, and the powerful emotion elicited by the destruction of objects in a public gallery meant that the presence of this work in A Secret History of Clay was not without controversy. The layout of the exhibition meant that Hein’s work was being reached after the visitor had first passed through a space populated by ceramics by
Anonymous 1999). Justification for the act again drew on the idea of augmenting the original artwork. They insisted that, while Emin’s piece had been “strong”, 86 Chapter Five they had wanted “to push her work to further limits, make it more sensational, interesting and significant” (Anonymous 1999). They also cited the influence of Duchamp. Describing their effort as a continuation of his legacy, they explained that just as he had turned found objects into art, so they wished to transform My
narrative23, the wholeness of a chemically Unstable Matter Destruction, Destructing, De-Obstruction 103 destroyed body cannot be re-established. The frayed contour threatens the physical delimitation and the imaginary stability. The classical fragmented body is displaced in favour of a deliquescent body. The frayed contour is a mark of disintegration and distinguishes the dead from the living body insofar as its function is to delimit the shape and to secure the inner structure of an
varied compositions, cross dissolves and other effects relate the historical images in a synchronous, non-linear way. The rearrangement of fragments establishes new semantic and temporal interrelations and hints at a historical comparison of 9/11 and the Hindenburg crash. Although, both disasters are historically and symbolically very different events, they have one thing in common. Both are significant and well known media events32 and media icons33 which found their way into collective memory
credit: Dan Prince. The covetable birds (each marked with the back-stamps of Wedgwood, the Victoria & Albert Museum and Twomey) sitting amongst the classical sculptures created a three-dimensional landscape to walk within, the pleasure of doing so heightened by the freedom for visitors to select and take home their favourite birds. Over the course of a day the installation disappeared from sight. Though the work was dismantled and effectively destroyed, equally, the work only became complete