Art and destruction


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Oct 24, 2013–May 26, 2014

In many of the artworks on view, regardless of time period, medium, or intent, the desire to control destruction or to emphasize the integral relationship between construction and destruction is central. But whether as rebellion or protest, as spectacle and release, or as an important facet of re-creation and restoration, it is apparent that for generations of artists internationally, destruction has served as an essential means of considering and commenting upon a host of the most pressing artistic, cultural, and social issues of our time.

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View image of Credit: Getty Images. Strategies of withdrawal and refusal have likewise been a mode of art world sabotage. In , the Art Workers Coalition formed, with such artists as Lucy Lippard and Carl Andre at the helm, organising anti-war protests and urging major institutions to close in opposition to the Vietnam War.

Jennifer Walden, editor of the newly published book 'Art and Destruction' | • Creative Space CCI

Their actions were in dialogue with other artist-led organisations at the time, such as Women Students and Artists for Black Art Liberation, directed by Faith Ringgold, and the Ad Hoc Women Artists group, led by Lippard, whose protests resulted in the inclusion of black women artists in the following Whitney Biennial. In , German artist Gustav Metzger attacked the commodification of art through such artworks as The Years Without Art — , which called for a three-year hiatus on all art production, discourse, and sales, though his recruitment process was ill-fated.

Still other sabotage-like methods galvanise viewers to take action. In a performance, Argentine artist Graciela Carnevale gathered participants in a glass-fronted gallery in Rosario, Argentina before leaving and locking the door behind her.

Her action challenged the very efficacy of art to affect reality. These projects sabotage the very concept of what an artwork can and should be. But to return to the opening question: what artworks actually do serve to interfere with political and social structures? Hard-pressed, I can think of only a handful that supersede the fraught dynamics of art, life, and power to intervene in systems while maintaining rigor in form or concept — works of art that actually do have purpose and effect on the real world.

Kill Helmut Kohl! In , Lawrence Abu Hamdan made the work The All-Hearing, for which he asked two sheikhs in Cairo not to deliver their usual weekly Friday sermons, but instead to deliver city-wide speeches about the dangers of noise pollution as a public health issue.

Destruction of Art: Why Do Some Artists Destroy their Artwork?

Schlingensief and Abu Hamdan alike disrupted a status quo to force a change. Of course, sabotage is mischievous. Often, it is an intervention that begins as a minor interference that multiplies or magnifies to result in the destruction of a system. And often, it is perpetrated anonymously. This relationship to duration and authorlessness alone makes true sabotage an irksome task for artists. That said, my favourite act of artistic sabotage was perpetrated in , in the quiet of the night, by Czech artist Ivan Kafka. Overnight, in the cobblestones of Jansky Street in Prague's Neruda district, just below the castle that serves as the historical and symbolic head of the Czech government, Kafka arranged 1, wooden sticks that stood upright.

When local residents opened their doors to leave for work in the morning, they were faced with the decision to trample the work — then an illegal act of free expression — or to preserve it and fail to appear for their jobs. Culture Menu.

The many versions of subversion

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