TIBETAN SAND MANDALA
JOHN BALDESSARI “The Cremation Project” 1970
California conceptual artist John Baldessari is known for plastering the faces of his subjects with colorful dots — an artistic choice that arose out of annoyance. “I just got so tired of looking at these faces [of people at civic events],” Baldessari told NPR. In 1970, the artist had a creative dry spell and no buyers. He took everything he painted from 1953 through 1966 to a morgue and burned it. “And so I said, ‘Well, I’m just going to stop. I have them in my head. I don’t really need them. So I decided I’ll just destroy them,” he explained. He viewed the pyre as an artistic rebirth, and turned to photography and the appropriated pop culture images he’s known for today.
JANINE ANTONI “Lick and Lather” 1993
Janine Antoni’s Lick and Lather saw the artist sculpting several busts of herself out of chocolate and soap. She licked the sweet sculpture to re-mold her image and took the soap bust to the bathtub with her until the water erased its features. “I think it’s a funny thing when you think about the creative process and what we go through when we’re making a work. A lot of times, there’s this element of destruction, that we have to kind of unmake in order to make, and that interests me very much.”
JEAN TINGUELY “Homage to New York” 1960
In 1960, Swiss artist Jean Tinguely (with the help of other artists and engineers like Billy Klüver and Robert Rauschenberg) created a 27-foot-high, self-destructive machine that ruined itself — at MoMA’s sculpture garden and the Las Vegas desert. “An hour and a half later, the suicide-fated machine started flaming and sawing at its mixed-up insides, turned balky despite several judiciously aimed kicks from its creator, got doused betimes by an anxious fireman, and had to be finished… ” Time wrote of the MoMA performance. Viewers were invited to take the remnants of Homage to New York as souvenirs.
MICHAEL LANDY, "Breakdown" 2001
For his 2001 installation Break Down, Young British Artists figure Michael Landy went through the extensive process of cataloguing all his possessions (all 7,227 of them) and then destroyed everything in a vacant London department store. This included his car, clothing, works of art that he created, and works of art by others — including pieces by one very pissed off Tracey Emin. The performance “was an examination of society’s romance with consumerism,” but also “reflect[ed] an emotional break down.” Watch this video.
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Here are some of my pedagogical musings, dabblings, wonderings and wanderings.