Friday, 18 June 2010

Material test—Timber

Gordon Matta-Clark

Gordon Matta-Clark was born in New York in 1943 and died in 1978. He studied French literature at the Sorbonne and Architecture at Cornell University. From the early 1970s, as a founding member of the artist-run Food Restaurant in New York's SoHo neighborhood, Matta-Clark participated in numerous group exhibitions and projects. His work was presented in Documenta V, Kassel, Germany; and at exhibitions in Sao Paolo, Berlin, Zurich, and in the 9th Biennale de Paris. Major projects by Matta-Clark were staged in Aachen, Paris and Antwerp.

Following his death, major retrospective exhibitions have been organized by the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; Badischer Kunstverein, Karlsruhe, Germany; and IVAM Centro Julio Gonzalez, Valencia, Spain, among others. In 2007, the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, honored him with a retrospective entitled "Gordon Matta-Clark: You Are the Measure."

Bronx Floors: Threshole 1972
2 black and white photographs
Each 356 x 508 mm
Bronx Floors: Threshole 1972
2 black and white photographs
Each 356 x 508 mm
City Slivers, 1976

City Slivers, 1976

Splitting, 1974

Splitting, 1974

Window Blow-Out, 1976
Window Blow-Out shows a derelict housing project in the Bronx with its windows bursted out. But what appears to be a random act of urban vandalism was actually a performance piece by Matta-Clark himself. In the performance, the artist shot at the windows of the empty building with a BB gun. The piece suggests that urban decay and neglect are manmade situations that can be avoided.

This is one of the Notable Entries for the Reburbia: a Suburban Design Competition going on now over at

I personally think this entry titled, Glass Houses: (Matta) Clark County, Nevada is brilliant. I’ve always loved the work of Gordon Matta-Clark which this entry uses beautifully as inspirational precedent.

From the entry website:

“Nevada has the highest foreclosure rate in the United States. 70,000 homes are affected- meaning 1 in 16 in homes is vacant. Not coincidentally, there are nearly 6,000 Clark County School District students who are now considered homeless. 1/3 of the homeless in Nevada are children under the age of 18, suggesting a much larger floating homeless population.

Re-inventing suburbia today is not a matter of making better houses or improving suburban planning. This project, although highly speculative, seeks to suggest a means of closing the gap between a near-absurd excess of new but vacant suburban homes across the nation, and our tragic, burgeoning homeless population.

We proceed from a Gordon Matta-Clark like vivisection of the typical subdivision. Each house within a standardized block is subdivided into four unequal units separated by a 3 meter wide gap that provides communal access and light. The interiors of each unit are reconfigured and capped with double glazed plates. The glass offers both a means of delivering acoustical and light control (via electrified privacy film.) Thermal control is delivered by employing the cavity space as a temperature buffer.

The ambition of re-envisioning the suburb must address what to do with the human as well as physical fall-out created by failed suburban development models and toxic financial speculation. Until we address the literal and metaphorical implications of these issues we are just gilding the suburban lily.”

For more on the other amazingly innovative entries check them out on theReburbia website. Voting going on now for the winners out of the top 20 selected finalists.

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Cornelia Parker

b. 1956, Cheshire, England

For some years Cornelia Parker’s work has been concerned with formalising things beyond our control, containing the volatile and making it into something that is quiet and contemplative like the ‘eye of the storm’. She is fascinated with processes in the world that mimic cartoon ‘deaths’ – steamrollering, shooting full of holes, falling from cliffs and explosions. Through a combination of visual and verbal allusions her work triggers cultural metaphors and personal associations, which allow the viewer to witness the transformation of the most ordinary objects into something compelling and extraordinary. Lately Parker’s attention has turned to issues of globalisation, consumerism and the mass-media.

    • Cold Dark Matter: An Exploded View, 1991
    • A garden shed and contents blown up
    • Dimensions variable
  • Hanging Fire Suspected Arson, 1999
  • Charcoal, wire, pins, nails
  • Length: 140 cm Width: 84 cm Height: 220 cm
    • Edge of England, 1999

      Chalk retrieved from a cliff fall at Beatch Head, South Downs, England

  • Breathless, 2001
  • Brass musical instruments, flattened
  • Alter Ego, 2004
  • Silver plated objects, wire
  • Quoting artist Cornelia Parker as she discusses her work, including Cold, Dark Matter: An Exploded View from 1991:

“I resurrect things that have been killed off... My work is all about the potential of materials - even when it looks like they've lost all possibilities.”

“It's a modern condition: the threat of bomb scares, and the fear it symbolizes. From seeing explosions on the news and all the time in films you sort of think you know what they are, but really your firsthand knowledge of it is very limited. I realized I'd never walked through the detritus of a bombed-out building."

"I like the life/death resurrection bit, which is very Catholic, something dies, but it's resurrected in another form."