Circus, or Caribbean Orange, 1978 Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago
The piece itself, when it was completed, felt like a cross between Piranesi and Alice in Wonderland. What was striking was how we led people through the sliced building. Here was a work that seemed almost impossible to share with the public and yet it became very accessible. Phil Berkman, chief of security and an artist, organized a way in which our guards … would take small groups through the entire building, walk them through all three floors and even jump across cuts as they went from one room to another. It was an extraordinary event.
interviews with Joan Simon, printed in Mary Jane Jacobs, Gordon Matta- Clark: A Retrospective, exhib. cat., Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago 1985
This work was a result of Matta-Clark contacting the Museum of Contemporary Art to request sponsorship for a project to be conducted in the city. Three years later, the Museum gave Matta-Clark the opportunity to produce a work prior to the building being renovated as gallery space.
In a cross-section view running the length of the building, Matta-Clark drew a diagonal line from the basement level to the roof. Along this axis he plotted three circles representing three spheres, each roughly 7 metres in diameter (the full width of the building), that were to be cut and which, as they ascended, grew more open in space. As in the earlier work Office Baroque, the forms became more complex as layering and overlapping occurred in the structure.
The title refers both to peeling an orange in a spiral (the shape of the cut in the building) and to the rings of a circus (in this work both the artist and the spectators were seen as actors). Matta-Clark in his title implies the action of slicing at the same time that he animates and translates the geometric sphere into a stage for action.