Cross References

Mimi Zeiger. GOD STATUS: A User’s Guide
taken from

Timing is everything, banal but true. Especially if you are looking to become an immortal god, be it rock, art, or architecture. The proof is in the pudding, like a fine French souffle, timing is everything. This adage is even more essential when death is involved. All the right factors need to be in place: fame – people need to miss you when you are gone, youth old people die all the time, youth is potential and the death of potential is far more tragic than potential realized, talent – added loss, the media goes crazy with this one, documentation – pictures, video, 16 mm footage, just make sure your work is acid free for posterity, you never know how much the Getty will pay for you paper napkin sketches.

A slight variance in any of these factors and your god status will never be reached. Right now, I could never achieve immortality. Yeah, I have talent, potential and youth, but no fame and I always forget to take slides of my models. Perhaps a better example is Michael Hutchence, former lead singer of INXS. The poor bloke killed himself at exactly the wrong time.

When I was in high school, that man was it. He had it all, a pair of ripped jeans for every day of the week (acid washed to perfection,) hair to toss, a sexy pout (or was it sexy eyes?) and teenage girls placing lip-gloss kissed TeenBeat photos of him in lockers and on notebooks. He was sex, and he even had a giant chrome pin that said so. It gleamed from his leather jacket as he lunged towards the camera in the “I Need You Tonight” video. Yet, when he died last month, apparently of self-strangulation with his belt, an inadvertent, auto-erotic suicide, his Aussie hotel room littered with bottle of speculative prescription drugs, his timing couldn’t have been more off. Seven or eight years earlier and the stardom/martyrdom equation would have emblazoned his name next to Kurt, Tupac, or even Buddy Holly – suicide, murder, plane crash. Or if he had waited, his second coming may have catapulted him into the limelight along side John Travolta, whose career boom is a recent example of life after coma. Or is it coma after coma? Whatever the case may be, Michael missed out on the upcoming INXS twenty city tour. An undertaking which may have brought him to the attention of Quentin Tarantino’s Lazarus spotting eye.

Alas, Mr. Hutchence’s rhythm was off, thus he is doomed to be the poor soul who pulled the belt a hit too tight, and offed himself when things got sour, not sickly sweet as in the glorified deaths of James (James Dean wore khakis) Dean or Kurt (Courtney’s big career move) Cobain. Even Allanis could see the true meaning of irony in the title of the last INXS record, “Elegantly Wasted”, for his demise was anything but elegant.

Like Jimmy or Kurt, Gordon Matta-Clark has achieved god status among cults of architects. His early death from cancer in 1978, at the zenith of his career, marked him for immortality. Matta-Clark’s split open buildings and other types of de-installations, are undeniably beautiful, dangerous, and a challenge to the rigid confines of architectural form. Yet, the genius myths (and truths) which have swirled around his life and death (especially since decon hit the scene) have given him glamour, fame, and deathlessness.

Wielding a chain saw, a hack saw, a crow bar and miles of extension cords, Matta-Clark cut gaping holes into existing buildings, exposing other meanings, other layers and other spaces, as he might have put it. To document his artwork, since the buildings he attacked were usually slated for total demolition, he photographed these dangerous spaces and filmed the anarchitecture (his term.) Seduced by the act of Matta-Clark’s unbuilding, architects are inspired to make again these spaces. But to attempt to build in this manner is to patently ignore the critical stance towards architecture which Matta-Clark took. It is to fall into the trap of the temple of Matta-Clark, icon. Yve-Alain Bois writes in Formless, a User’s Guide, the book of the month:

“Matta-Clark considered architecture a clownish and pretentious enterprise, and he would have been particularly enraged at having become a model, enraged to see his provisional disruptions of building stylized under the label of “deconstructionism” in the architectural projects of certain of his former professors at Cornell. If the architect takes himself for a sculptor,he masks his own role in capitalist society, which is to build rabbit warrens to the order of real estate developers.” (p.191)

Not really interested in bridging any gap between architecture and art, Matta-Clark spurned his Cornell education and the uptight binds of the gentleman’s profession. When I was at Cornell in the early 90’s Matta-Clark’s work was not taught, or even acknowledged, except as a subterranean find, which student after groupiesque student would shuttle home from the library to study as a guide to living out the promise of deconstruction. A Matta-Clark and a Libeskind monograph were as de rigueur as a Sonic Youth CD and a pair of Doc Martins. But Richard Meier, who has now taken to traipsing around the Getty in a Frank Lloyd Wright inspired cape, wasn’t subject matter at Cornell either. We students were taken way back to the early cannon of Modernism. Danger came from a chance brush with the members of the historic avant-garde. So when we unearthed Matta-Clark, a folk hero was born. His past was like our present and he had gotten enraged by it. He had danger, youth, talent, fame and a future which was cut short just in time for him not to make any crucial mistakes which would hinder his cult status. Most importantly, he made sure to document his work. So it was glory be and all praise.

When the films of Matta Clark were restored and screened recently at both UCLA and SCI-Arc, I was giddy. Finally, I had the chance to see the punk granddaddy of deconstruction, the Sid Vicious of architecture on the big screen. So I went to watch. I brought along a friend who I was trying to convince that architecture is cool, and I was appalled. He was bored. What those few yards of film revealed was not the spontaneous energy which I had expected. Nor was it the raw wonderment which is found in early CBGB footage or the films of Warhol’s Factory, or even, the mainstream psychedelic era movies, made just a few years before Matta-Clark’s films, where the actors are so stoned and the camerawork so trippy, that you get a contact high just by pressing play on the VCR. The films by provocateur Gordon Matta-Clark were straight out of the me (not m-m-my) generation school of documentaries and they were boring.

Office Baroque (1977), which I watched primarily on fast forward at the MAK Center for Art and Architecture a couple months after I left the large screen screening, finds Matta-Clark crouched amidst extension cords and ripped up floorboards. He is bare chested and he sports jeans and a jaunty workers cap. In a pose worthy of a Jeff Striker movie, Matta-Clark deftly changes the chain on his saw. His masculinity and roguish edginess are in full command. His glorious voice over, which echoes off the Italian travertine walls of the temples of high art, says that occupying the space of his work is akin to the layers of line in a drawing. A man alone, prying up the floor, hard at work on his anarchitecture, Matta-Clark aims for a complexity which is indecipherable. “An undocumentable documentary” is how he describes his work. From viewing his photographs and even snippets of his films, it seems that he majestically achieves this goal and gets rock god status to boot. A deconstructivist Robert Plant. Who wouldn’t be moved by a house split manually in two? He becomes the hero/martyr of the cult of labor, a grungy, manly tribe found in wood shops and scrap yards everywhere. But, unfortunately for us, Matta-Clark’s films, when viewed in bulk, undermine his successful stabs at complexity and underline a certain godawful staleness to this supposedly cutting edge work.

Clockshower (1973) features Matta-Clark performing his morning ablutions while suspended from the face of a clocktower. The film wants to call into question the banalities of everyday private, indoor life. It challenges routine spaces by placing the bathroom on the face of the clock in public and on a grand scale. Unfortunately, the real time footage and the unrelenting washing off of shaving cream (such a manly, Dada endeavor) smacks of self indulgent, self important, high art film-making. So, even though his work wishes to achieve ruptures in art and life, and to bang hard on the doors of the establishment, Matta-Clark’s anarchy becomes part of (and never was really far from) the world he strived to criticize. If anything, his work serves to give conservative architecture students a surly edginess.

The extent to which Matta-Clark’s work has been deradicalized can be seen at the exhibition currently on display at the MAK Center. About a dozen or so of his photographs, an artist book, and a video collection of his films are all tastefully framed within Shindler’s Kings Road house. All there is warm wood panels, Japanese cum California styling – no angry young man could withstand the treatment. The photographs are small and pretty much forgettable. In case the images don’t engrave themselves on your retina, the MAK has created a catalogue to go along with the exhibition. It is a slim volume, elegantly designed, containing a couple nausea inducing essays, and tiny, to the point of cute, reproductions of Matta-Clark’s work, all bundled in gobs of white space and class.

So the rowdy intellect who thumbed his nose at the establishment of art and architecture, is now absorbed into that culture like one of the original disciples. Just as Cobain’s death allowed grunge to jump in and out of mainstream culture, depositing work boots and white male angst into middle America, Matta-Clark’s death and subsequent rebirth as the lost Jedi knight of deconstruction freed architects to act out their own Rebel With a Cause fantasies of form. But I wonder how enraged (Bois’ term) he would have been by being appropriated by mainstream architects. His brother had committed suicide by jumping out the window of Gordon’s studio, so it would seem that he would be familiar with the death timing principle. Perhaps the best timing Matta-Clark should have used (cancer aside) in order to continue to maintain a critical distance would have been to live, and to keep living into boring ripe old age, thus undermining all the factors for god status.

Zing Magazine. Rachel Whiteread: Nothing Is More Real Than Nothing.
taken from here

To look at space as something measurable although infinite requires a meticulous gradation of emulsified materials. It is the facility of connotation within those materials that resonates in Rachel Whiteread’s recent sculptures at Luhring Augustine Gallery.

Her casts of the inverted sides of household items used daily (i.e., tables, bathtubs) are a transmutation of the work her precursors (Donald Judd, Bruce Nauman), investigated earlier. It is however, the work of Gordon Matta-Clark in the early 1970s that Whiteread mirrors in that Matta-Clark’s anarchitectural concepts were about the complexity of forms which had seemingly outlived their use for the disenfranchised inhabitants. Both share a social conciousness derived out of a philosophical need to conjure and excoriate the epistemological concerns of history and time. It is a knowledge gained by incision (Matta-Clark’s sauna, 1971, and splitting: four corners, 1974) and through addition by subtraction (architectural modifications) in the passageways and views that simplified (bronx floors: threshole, 1972-73, and day’s end, 1975) the immutability of “nothingness.” A sensuous use of plaster, resin, and rubber memorialize the rituals associated with those objects (such as dining and bathing). Evoking memory in its myriad forms, Whiteread excavates a lucid, dreamy world by our association to the underside/underbelly, thus concieving an anthropological study. By semiotically inducing the reductionist nature of minimalism, a heraldic narration in a modernistic idiom gives form to a concept. That very concept provides a cogent window for the viewer to experience the transient “nothing” as a tactile embodiment of place. As Samuel Beckett said, “nothing is more real than nothing.”

untitled (rubber double plinth), is the backside of mortuary slabs, their weight and shape a merging of the plano concave/convex, resulting in a stolid representation of death, giving expressivness to rigor mortis.

untitled (resin corridor), consists of nine planks of translucent blue-green, arranged on the floor to re-create the steps that were used to cast an inversion of once creaky floorboards. Their impermeable surface is suffused with an inexorable emulsion. In distilling the history of objects as a finite form, Whiteread provides us with polemic as an ontological argument; an augury on the chimera of postmodern life where the umbilical chord has been cut from the sacrament of daily consecration; a death mask for the 20th century with parallels to the fall of ancient Rome. If art is a reinvention of the past, where the self governs its own universe and is therefore its own God, then the artist by tactile delineation, molds the face of the faceless.

As sepulchral as these phantasmic sculptures are, they remain as reliquaries to the living.

Max Henry

New York, New York

Object to Be DestroyedThe Work of Gordon Matta-Clark

by Pamela M. Lee. taken from

December 1999 ISBN 0-262-12220-0 240 pp., 99 illus. $35.00/£21.95 (cloth)

Although highly regarded during his short life–and honored by artists and architects today–the American artist Gordon Matta-Clark (1943-78) has been largely ignored within the history of art. Matta-Clark is best remembered for site-specific projects known as “building cuts.” Sculptural transformations of architecture produced through direct cuts into buildings scheduled for demolition, these works now exist only as sculptural fragments, photographs, and film and video documentations. Matta-Clark is also remembered as a catalytic force in the creation of SoHo in the early 1970s. Through loft activities, site projects at the exhibition space 112 Greene Street, and his work at the restaurant Food, he participated in the production of a new social and artistic space.

Have art historians written so little about Matta-Clark’s work because of its ephemerality, or, as Pamela M. Lee argues, because of its historiographic, political, and social dimensions? What did the activity of carving up a building-in anticipation of its destruction–suggest about the conditions of art making, architecture, and urbanism in the 1970s? What was one to make of the paradox attendant on its making–that the production of the object was contingent upon its ruination? How do these projects address the very writing of history, a history that imagines itself building toward an ideal work in the service of progress?

In this first critical account of Matta-Clark’s work, Lee considers it in the context of the art of the 1970s–particularly site-specific, conceptual, and minimalist practices–and its confrontation with issues of community, property, the alienation of urban space, the “right to the city,” and the ideologies of progress that have defined modern building programs.

Manfred Pernice Anton Kern Gallery , New York In order to keep pace with the ever-expanding network of international biennials and art fairs, artists increasingly have to function as globe-trotting polyglots. While we recognise the impossibility of achieving universal communication, the pressure to produce work that remains comprehensible as it travels from Johannesburg to Kwangju cannot be ignored. German artist Manfred Pernice has adjusted his practice to meet the requirements of participating in this scattered conversation, leading him to form brief, tenuous attachments to disparate locations.

Pernice’s first solo show in New York demonstrated his finesse in terms of working in an idiom that lends itself to a nomadic existence. It is fitting that the exhibition concept germinated while he was on an artists’ residency programme in Bremerhaven, Germany, as such programmes play a strong role in compelling artists to adapt quickly to new surroundings. Basing his project on some newspaper articles he’d come across during his stay in Bremerhaven, the items on display here traced the migration of his ideas to New York.

Pernice did not devote too much energy to presentation: the room in which he set up camp for the show resembled the provisional state of an artist’s studio. Local news dailies from Bremerhaven described the extension of the cruise ship, Windward, through the insertion of a pre-built middle section ­ ‘ein Meisterstück des Schiffbaus’. The clippings were loosely mounted on paper and pinned to the walls of one gallery. He annotated the texts and reproductions in his rather illegible handwriting, augmented by sketches derived from details of the ship’s alteration. Through the drawings he tried to work out the structure of the portable bathroom units that had been lowered by crane into the body of the vessel.

Apparently intrigued by this feat of engineering, Pernice built his own addition into the short corridor that separates the two exhibition rooms from the gallery office. The crude construction, made of sheets of particle board painted grey and mustard, was a distant relative of the bath units seen in the newspaper photos. Instead of tiles and sinks, however, several small photos and reproductions ­ from past shows at Kern, a ship at sea, a Kippenberger drawing in the apartment of a staff member ­ adorned the walls like a traveller’s snapshots. Time was tightly condensed in this passageway, through the intermixing of recent history and current interests.

Pernice’s disruption of the gallery architecture ­ to see the attendant, one had either to stand on one’s toes or duck down low ­ was as short-lived as his physical presence in New York. His intervention did not carry the sense of permanent and dynamic change involved in the cuttings of Gordon Matta-Clark, with whom Pernice is often compared. Although both artists draw attention to transitional and overlooked spaces, Matta-Clark’s projects typically reflect a conscious recognition of the particular characteristics of the site at hand. Pernice’s relationship to his short­term surroundings is more like that of an out-of-town guest: he briefly makes his mark by presenting ‘souvenirs’ from his most recent port of call.

This is not to say that Pernice neglects his host. The second gallery, which contained photos taken on board the Staten Island Ferry, brought the show firmly into the present by providing a local maritime reference. Though the connections were superficial, he had managed to initiate a dialogue between his Bremerhaven and New York projects. Attempting to follow the route of Pernice’s peripatetic method, one encountered a highly detached treatment of place. The Kern exhibition, while providing an artworld context in which Pernice could explore notions of a fluctuating type of space, was finally subservient to his deeper interest in the customs that operate in the world beyond the gallery. He seeks out internationally recognised forms of activity (shipping, in this case) and establishes links between distant realms by identifying and highlighting visual correspondences.

This precarious, transitory bond to a site leads to the paradox at the heart of such a practice: the better an artist ‘speaks’ in these global terms ­ the more adept he becomes at manipulating widely accessible signs ­ the less a part of any given locality he can claim to be. As he accumulates experiences and impressions, Pernice can produce work that insinuates itself into any given environment. The question remains whether each local audience will react co-operatively to his invitation to retrace his footsteps. Although it is possible that the viewer will feel too removed from Pernice’s itinerary to comprehend its fleeting ties to far-flung places, perhaps it is just this sense of loose affiliation that defines today’s common visual currency.

Gregory Williams

Yoko Ono, Half-A-Room (1967)

“– The environment consists of a domestic bedroom containing numerous pieces of furniture -a bed, shelves, a chair, a table – and domestic items, including teacups, a clock, a vase of flowers, a radio, a framed portrait, a single shoe, a table lamp – all cut in half and painted white. Ono used simple domestic items in order to depict the ordinary, everyday environment in which a sense of loss and emptiness is usually experienced. The half-room represents absence – perhaps of a parent, lover, spouse or child; of place; of other people; or of self. Although it expresses the desire to be made whole, Ono’s writing at the time reveals and understanding of the symbiosis of separateness and connection: “It is sad that the air is the only thing we share. No matter how close we get to each other, there’s always air between us. It is also nice that we share the air. No matter how far apart we are, the air links us.” (Chrissie Iles in the catalogue by the Museum Of Modern Art Oxford for Have You Seen The Horizon Lately?)

Spatial Charette taken from here Eric Gautron

Inspired by certain remarks of Gordon Matta Clark, on deconstructivist architects, “…not one who dismantles buildings, but one who locates the inherent dilemmas within the building…” The dilemma, the separation of parts of the building, the lack of inter connectivity, one room doesn’t know what the next room is doing. The challenge in the building to bring to today’s standards. The connect the building with itself. How to make it connect… the bridging of the large urban room, making the two wings of the building meet somehow, make them see each other, what they are made of… The idea of creating links either visual, physical, meta-physical, cross dimensional, spatial and all others…

Lauren Gulenchyn

The intention of ‘Rebuilding the New’ is to incorporate modern elements into an historic building by deconstructing existing components and replacing them with essentials to the new media center. Instead of building onto what is existing, the intervention will build from it. As the building has been dormant for over 30 years a strong contrast can be made between old and new by going in and exposing the cables and cords that run the center. Instead of masking the modern technology, it is positioned as being birthed from what is existing. The works of Gordon Matta Clark are the driving inspiration behind ‘Rebuilding the New’. Through deconstructive measures he is able to heighten the senses to perceive the building as a constant work in progress.

Robyn Richards

The inspirations for the transformation of the spaces in this building were Gordon Matta-Clark and Bill Viola; two installation artists with very different methods of presentation. The strategy for intervening in these spaces is to focus on the light in the spaces and how it can be manipulated to create both physical and psychological space.

Contemporary Art Auction, Christie’s, 7PM, November 16, 1999

Lot 39, “Pier In/Out” by Gordon Matta-Clark,

90 inches high, 1973

One of the more important works in the auction is Lot 39, “Pier In/Out,” by Gordon Matta-Clark (1943-1978), shown above.

This 90-inch-high work is an early “extraction” by Matta-Clark who sought out abandoned structures and carved them up. The catalogue notes that the artist studied architecture at Cornell University but abandoned it and chose “destructuring” and developed the notion of “anarchitecture” and studied neglected structures that he described as “non-u-mental.” Matta-Clark was very influential with many avant-garde architects and artists and the catalogue maintained that such works as this were meant to “call attention to the ruins of urban society in the name of modernization and capitalism,” choosing to “present rather than preserve” the non-u-mentals. The lot, which was completed in 1973, has an estimate of $300,000 to $400,000.


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