Works 05: Conical Intersect

Conical Intersect, 1975 (also called Etant d’art pour locataire, Quel Con, Quel Can, and Cal Can) 27-29, rue Beaubourg, Paris

We had a two-week permit to be in the building, and, as usual, the piece was controversial. Since it was near Beaubourg, the French officials and the Rightists were getting upset – they thought it was an insult to the new Beaubourg and a comment on the modernization of Paris. The Leftists, the Communist press, were also panning Gordon for taking and cutting a perfectly good building which could have been renovated for workers’ housing.

Gerry Hovagimyan

People were already looking at this new building going up – Beaubourg was an architectural scandal at that time in Paris. And as you walked or drove down the street, the first thing you saw was this enormous circle of a hole in a building. People noticed it and talked about it on the street. It was a hole; people didn’t know that it was an artwork…The light coming down through it changed the piece throughout the day. It was extraordinarily beautiful to be in there. Again, it was dangerous. Parts of the structure were very tenuous.

Jean-Hubert Martin

interviews with Joan Simon, printed in Mary Jane Jacobs, Gordon Matta- Clark: A Retrospective, exhib. cat., Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago 1985

Executed as part of the Paris Biennale, Conical Intersect was one of Matta-Clark’s major projects that continued the exploration of circular forms in space begun in Day’s End. The buildings in which he executed his work were the last to be demolished as part of the modernization of the area, primarily in the form of the Centre Georges Pompidou, by Richard Rogers and Renzo Piano.

The cut into the two 17th century townhouses took the form of a great twisting cone. From the massive opening, 4 metres in diameter, which was cut through the north wall and whose centre reached the height of the fourth floor, the cone spiralled back in space through walls, doors and finally through the roof of the adjoining house, as it diminished. This presented a constantly changing, silent son-et-lumèire, as Matta-Clark called it, Interview with Matta-Clark in Matta- Clark, (exhib. cat.), International Cultureel Centrum, Antwerp, September 1977, p.12 with light pouring in through the hole at the top. The axis of the cone was at roughly 45 degrees to the street below, a main thoroughfare of Paris, affording thousands of passers-by glimpses through the work of the Centre Pompidou beyond, a rising monument to Hi-tech and French culture. From within, the hole functioned almost as a periscope, the view directed downwards to the activity in the street.

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