Gordon Matta-Clark has been described as ‘the only true Deconstructivist architect’. James Wines, The Slippery Floor, op. cit., p.138 This dissertation has sought to test this hypothesis, through the examination of the philosophies behind Deconstruction and Deconstructivism.
Deconstruction immediately does not seem applicable to architecture, since it is a philosophical approach to literary criticism. Derrida has himself sustained that Deconstructive architectural thought is impossible, maintaining that ‘Deconstruction is not an architectural metaphor’. Jacques Derrida, Fifty-Two Aphorisms for a Foreword, op. cit., p.69
Derrida’s readings of philosophical and literary texts show that, by taking the unspoken or unformulated propositions of a text literally, by showing the subtle internal contradictions, the text can be shown to be saying something quite other than that which it appears to be saying. The main effect of Derrida’s deconstructions has been to destroy the assumption that a particular text has ‘a’ meaning. Meaning, Derrida suggests, is not encased or contained in language, but is ‘disseminated’.
Some critics mistakenly hail as deconstruction what is, rightly and rightfully, an illuminating autopsy of meaning.
Eugenio Trías, Art and the Sacred, in Gordon Matta-Clark, exhib. cat., IVAM Centre Julio Gonzalez, Valencia 1993, p.382
This suggests that certain ‘Deconstructionist’ architecture is quite apart from an actual Derridean process of Deconstruction. The difference appears to be one of the ‘meaning’ of language.
Derrida himself had made a point of refusing all requests for a snap definition. If there is one ‘truth’ about deconstruction, he asserts, it is the fact that no statement of the form ‘deconstruction is x’ can possibly claim any warrant or genuine explanatory power.
Christopher Norris & Andrew Benjamin, What is Deconstruction?, op. cit., p.10
Certainly both Bernard Tschumi and Peter Eisenman have identified Derrida as an influence upon their work. To dismiss such a claim without identifying what Deconstruction ‘is’ would be foolish.
Wigley sees precedents for the work of his Deconstructivists in the sketches and drawings of the Russian Constructivists, ignoring the fact that Suprematism too has been an influence. Wigley adds to this his thesis that Deconstructivism is a challenging of the values of harmony, unity and stability. A Deconstructive architect is therefore ‘not one who dismantles buildings, but one who locates the inherent dilemmas within buildings – the structural flaws.’ Mark Wigley, Deconstructivist Architecture, in Andreas Papadakis (ed), Deconstruction; Omnibus Volume, op. cit., p.133 These flaws result from the influence of his ‘alien’.
The alien is an outgrowth of the very form that it violates; the form distorts yet does not destroy itself.
Deconstructivism, apart from the references to Constructivism, requires an examination of ‘meaning’ with regards to structure, the ‘inherent dilemmas’. Deconstruction, on the other hand, requires an examination of the totality of architectural ‘meaning’.
It is suggested that whereas Derrida’s Deconstruction is one affecting conceptual structure, Matta-Clark’s ‘deconstruction’ is one affecting, or rather illuminating, physical structure, and whereas the flaws in Deconstructivism are intrinsic to the structure, the flaws in Matta- Clark’s works are intrinsic to the composition. De-composition is proposed as being the underlying strategy of Matta-Clark’s work. This entropological process combines the breakdown implied by both Deconstruction and Deconstructivism, thereby providing a unification of these two philosophies.
Gordon Matta-Clark was ahead of his time, pre-empting the application of Deconstruction to architecture. His untimely death in 1978 cut short the work of an artist who foresaw the rise of Deconstructionist architecture. To paraphrase Geoffrey Broadbent, there is a lot of Deconstructionist architecture about, and there is more to come. Geoffrey Broadbent, The Architecture of Deconstruction, op. cit., p.11 But perhaps Gordon Matta-Clark was there first.