Currently Reading: Gabriel Orozco – Asterisms (exhibition catalogue). 2012. Guggenheim Museum Publications, New York.

Nancy spector (curator)’s essay begins by comparing stroturf Constellation and Standstars – two rubbish collections from a playing field in America and beach in Mexico respectively; two areas where Orozco splits his time between.

Spector mentions a few previous rubbish projects: Penske Work Project (1998) which “involved a performance process in which the artist drove around New York City in a rented moving van, stopping at dumpsters to rummage for materials from which he crafted on-the-spot sculptures that he stored in the back of the vehicle. […] A year later, Orozco embarked on a similar project of retrieval and display by gathering the rusted cans that littered a beach in the Mexican state of Oaxaca and transforming each one with a label from the local beer, Carta Blanca. Corroded beyond use value, these cans found renewed purpose when exhibited at Portikus in Frankfurt as part of Carta Blanca (1999), an installation pairing beer, industrial decrepitude, and sand. (p.68)

In footnote 6 (p.69) Spector cites Benjamin H. D. Buchloch on Orozco’s work comparing Schwitters and Arp: “The affirmation of an object’s presentness and use value was countered by … Dadaists Arp and Schwitters with an emphasis on obsolescence, the object’s slow deterioration, or its inherent, increasingly rapid disappearance. Once of the precarious tasks that Schwittters and Arp confronted was of course to distinguish the obsolete object from mere detritus. That is, to transfigure an object, merely freed by time from its deployment in the production of use and exchange value, so that it could become a mnemonic object, engendering a reflection on the imaginary status not only of a future object, but also of future subject/object relations freed from all elements of production. What we perceive as aesthetic mastery in Schwitters and Arp originates first of all in their ability to rescue the fragments as mere junk, and to imbue the obsolete within an act of redemption.” – quoted from Gabriel Orozco: Sculpture as Recollection. 2006. Mexico City Museum del Palacio de Bellas Artes/Turner. p.168.

As I do with the Museum of Contemporary Rubbish photographs; “He isolated every item against a neutral backdrop, focussing it in the center of the frame.” p.69

Ans also in parallel with my notion that classification systems (including classifying something as rubbish) are human constructs: “The centrality of man is also obvious when it comes to taxonomic thought, given that all classified systems are ultimately subjective and arbitrary. They only exist as reflections on our heuristic perspectives on the natural world. With Asterisms and its taxonomic inflection, Orozco has emptied the archival model of its tacit authority by veiling his voice, his own subjectivity, behind the overarching logic of categorization – no matter how contrived the system – no ultimately reveals its artificiality.” (p.70)


Continuous Project Altered Daily

Another minor disaster to add to the Catalogue of 2013 Destruction (see post #126 26 November 2013).

I’m not sure if since I’ve been studying rubbish, things have been becoming rubbish more often or whether I’ve just noticed them more.

The latest fatality is my signed copy of Robert Morris’ Continuous Project Altered Daily: The Writings of Robert Morris (1994, MIT Press). (I didn’t actually know it was signed when I bought it off ebay years ago. It’s says; For Michele Cone, on condition….! R Morris 2/5/94).

A few months back I moved all the precious art books up to the top bookshelf whilst babyproofing the house from the now-crawling Toby. The bookshelf is structured according to importance; art books on the top shelf, theory and reference on the middle shelf and fiction on the bottom (obviously with some slight overlap). The shelves are also cluttered with other stuff; a small Che Guevara portrait, a ceramic squashed tin can (opened), Toby’s poster paints, a ukulele, a tambourine, a conical flask, a banana shaped hip flask, binoculars, some pram toys and a trailing plant which has gone a bit bonkers in the dark warm shelf.

The plant at some point has been over-watered. Being on the top shelf, I didn’t notice this until today when I went to get my Martin Kippenberger book down to reference and noticed a dubious tidal mark about an inch up.A small section of precious art books have sponged the excess water up and now have an ugly tidal mark throughout their pages. They are all still readable and not too badly damaged except my Robert Morris book.

Mould covers the water damaged areas and the pages are glued together, still damp. Trying to extract the pages apart results in them ripping and the hardback cover’s black dye has been leached out spreading through the affected pages and book jacket.

Clean up operation begins with wiping the mould off with a sponge, but this results in disintegrating the sodden paper into little soggy twists of paper pulp. It’s pretty ruined. The book is drying out on the radiator now.

The little paper twists remind me a little bit of Threadwaste (1968) which I’ve been studying (through pictures) and also made me think of Michael Landy’s Breakdown (2001) where he destroyed everything he owned.

I don’t think of myself as that materialistic but I do really value books (despite destroying a fair few intentionally as art). The condition they’re kept in is also really important to me. Bent corners and notes in margins are absolutely no-go. And although I research a lot online and appreciate that information is readily accessible and global through online pdfs and the like, I also prefer to access information through physical books.

The accidental damage of a particularly relevant book such as Continuous Project Altered Daily is starting to make this spate of destruction seem all a bit too uncanny.

Last year I collected and catalogued every item of rubbish generated through my practice for HOARD and any waste became art in the form of this collection. Now I’m no longer collecting any waste associated with my practice, there’s no need to save, or do anything with these small scraps. Maybe this is another reason I’m noticing these things more too.

However, I think on this occasion I will save the soggy little Continuous Project Altered Daily remnants. They will act as a reminder to not over-water the plant on the precious-art-book top shelf but also I can ponder on the thoughts they have raised.

Footnote: It took me 3 attempts to write this post in a doc as my software kept crashing and when I went to upload it to a-n, their website was down. Then replying to @an_artnews, twitter wouldn’t let me send a tweet several times due to ‘internal error’. I’m not superstitious but apparently it’s Friday 13th.


Currently reading: Gordon Matta-Clark: The Space Between. (2003). James Attlee & Lisa le Feuvre. Nazraeli Press.

This exhibition catalogue from the retrospective of the late Gordon Matta Clark (1943-1978) at the CCA Glasgow presents the life work of ‘anarchitect’ and godson of Marcel Duchamp’s second wife Alexina ‘Teeny’ Duchamp.

“A Duchampian fascination with puns, spelling ruptures, and playing on words run through Matta-Clark’s practice.” notes Le Feuvre (p.9).

Matta-Clark came to my attention with Garbage Wall (1970) in a regular google search for art works of garbage. He used garbage from the locality with cement to make the wall.

Le Feuvre (exhibition curator) writes; “Temporality was a crucial element to Matta-Clark’s work within its own moment of making, and historical distance brings an added dimension to its importance.” (p.8)

Garbage Wall was also installed at this show at the CCA and like previously installation, appears as the first encounter: “At the CCA the journey through the work begins with a recreation of Garbage Wall, a prototype building construction. Installed in the foyer gallery, which is viewable from the street, Garbage Wall connects Matta-Clark’s work to the city of Glasgow with the material used to construct the wall sourced from the areas surrounding the CCA. (p.10).

James Attlee provides some background to Matta-Clark’s life and work and introduces an array of synonymous terms to the previously assigned category of ‘garbage’.

“His palette was the flotsam and jetsam, the discarded and ignored rubbish of modern life, the waste products of the capitalist machine.” (p.13).

Quoted from Gordon Matta-Clark: A Retrospective exhib cat, Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, 1985, p.19: “John Baldessari described him as “a messy minimalist; he liked big rough edges.”

“During the last months of his life, Matta-Clark was involved in the planning of a project called Twentieth Century Ruins, conceived by Alanna Heiss. The intention was to use the buildings on 54th street as the site of installations by a number of artists. The buildings would remain in place three years, a longevity that was attractive to Matta-Clark, who was ready to undertake what he called some “serious architectural renovation.” (p.86)

The plates throughout the catalogue have been stuck in much like you might find in a scrap book. Figure 12: Jacks, Under Brooklyn Bridge, 1971. Still from Fire Child. sheds further light on Garbage Wall:

“The Brooklyn Bridge Event was an annual celebration of the construction of the bridge, with the space below becoming a site for artists an performers. At the 1971 event, organised by Alanna Heiss, Matta-Clark made a number of works which included the pieces Garbage Wall, Fire Child and Jacks shown in this [CCA] exhibition.

These works explore the ways that architecture can be created out of waste. Fire Child records the building of Garbage Wall, a remake of a work made in 1970 at St Marks Church, New York in an event entitled Homesteading, an Exercise in Curbside Living. Here Garbage Wall was used as a backdrop for acting out a series of household chores, and at the end of the event it was thrown in a dumpster hired for the occasion. Constructed out of other people’s throwaways moulded together with tar and plaster, Garbage Wall is an architectural prototype. At CCA a Garbage Wall sits in the first room entered and is viewable from the street, at the AA one sits on a terrace viewable from the café, with both accompanied by instructions of how to make a garbage wall.”

Jane Crawford recalls: “When he did the Brooklyn bridge Project, there was a homeless man beneath the bridge who had built this house out of cardboard and was living there. And so Gordon looked at this house, and knew that with his architectural experience he could do better. So he took the material that he found under the Brooklyn Bridge and he did two things. He built Jacks, which was [made] out of old car parts, but was waterproof. And then he made these architectural elements out of garbage. The materials were free. I think he did buy some cement at one point, but cement is very cheap, and he built a house out of that. And so by doing these performances right there under the Brooklyn Bridge, the homeless people were able to see it, and the idea was that they would go out and do something better.”


Currently watching: Getting Rich in the Recession, Channel 4, Thursday 28 November 2013, 9pm. 47:16

“With metal prices soaring, this documentary meets the diverse range of people raking it in in the scrap industry, from ex-criminals to former music moguls and a mum-of-three.”


“The UK is still feeling the effects of recession. Jobs are being axed, money is tight and most of us are broke. But look a little closer and you’ll see that the streets of Britain are paved with gold. You just need to know where to look. With unprecedented access to a scrap yard in Sydenham, South London, this documentary lifts the lid on the secret world of the scrap metal industry. […]Due to the soaring cost of metal, scrap is a £10 billion a year industry. Over a million tonnes of electrical waste are thrown away each year. More than half of it still works. Old sinks, pots, pans, wrecked TVs, unwanted cars, washing machines, window frames, chairs and lamps are thrown away without a moment’s thought. And there to collect it, just around the corner, are the scrappers. Full of incidents, insight, humour and larger-than-life personalities, the film reveals an extraordinary group of people who, through hard graft and a keen eye for an opportunity, are making money from nothing on the streets of South London.”

The somewhat tongue-in-cheek and attention grabbing title gets straight to the point: This programme is all about people trying to make money in one of the hardest economically eras many have ever seen in their lives. This episode focusses on the scrap trade. The scrapyard owner with a healthy annual turnover talks about the scrap industry being a bit like the stock exchange – knowing when to buy and sell to make the most profit. The current premium on scrap metal is being driven by booming building industries in China and India. The main message of the programme is that although the scrap industry might have a rough and dirty reputation due to the physical labour involved, the people it is attracting are ordinary folk from various backgrounds.

The camera follows a few willing subjects around London as they collect scrap and also look at the inner workings of a scrapyard. One scrapper talks about his utter disbelief how wasteful we are as a nation and seems to less waste despite making his living from others’ careless wasting. We have too much stuff, he says, and would value things more if we had less stuff – a thought shared by many an environmentalist and developmental psychologist.

The only female scrapper talks about the emotional side to her job. After a recent messy divorce she can no longer bare spending evenings at home and escapes into her world of driving around scavenging for things to sell and also keep. She shows us around her daughters bedroom that she proudly tells us is mostly found and recycled items although she is keen to point out she is not a hoarder – she only keeps stuff she has a specific use for. In the hierarchy of rubbish, hoarder is below that of scavenging and scrapper it seems.

The racism people encounter is rife. The programme concludes by emphasising that this trade is attracting lots of people from all walks of life trying to make a living. It doesn’t require qualifications, relevant experience or even a clean criminal record and, although there are a few people giving scrappers a bad name by illegal activity such as not asking permission to take scrap metal even if it’s in a skip or stealing railway cable, most scrappers are honest and hard working. The main problem the scrappers are facing in these hard times is the over-saturation of other traders seeking the same scrap metal, so this advert for making a quick few quid seems to be doing the ‘stars’ of the show no favours at all. However, it may raise awareness that what we are thoughtlessly throwing away is actually of value and help people to reconsider what they discard as rubbish.


Michael Landy in conversation with Richard Calvocoressi

Leeds Art Gallery 30/11/12


Landy also showed us his film on Jean Tinguely’s Homage to New York (1960) entitled H.2.N.Y. (2007). He cited Tinguely: He said “It should come from the dump and end up at the dump.” There was a newspaper article reviewing the work with the headline “Wacky artist of destruction”. Peter Selz is on the film explaining that performance art didn’t really exist at that time and that it was in a way the first performance by a machine.” Billy Klüver was Tinguely’s electrical engineer collaborating on the construction and noted that most good machines self-destruct but Tinguely’s constructively self-destructed. He also points out that this was a machine that would not see the inside of a museum unless ther was a collector in the audience. The remains were taken to the city dump where they came from. Tinguely had asked other NY artists to contribute and Bob Rauschenberg was one who immediately said yes. At the last minute Tinguely painted the sculpture white to stand out against the dull landscape but it snowed overnight before the event so Tinguely asked the workmen to paint the snow black – which they refused.

The event was attended by the gallery’s invite list – the arty and influential of New York. John Cage was there. The audience thought the contraption was functional and waited around for hours in the cold before anything happened – confused and bemused. The event had a timeline built into into beginning with piano playing itself and a text scroll but both of these failed to work properly – the piano only playing three notes throughout and the text scrolling backwards. The ‘suicide carriage’ that was supposed to propel itself out of the structure and drown irtelf in the pond failed and Tinguely later donated it to MOMA which remains the largest remaining piece of the sculpture although many peple in the audience took pieces home as souvenirs or mementos of the occasion – quite possibly the first time this had happened at an art event.

H.2.N.Y (2007) is apparently screening at Tate Britain until 5 January 2014 in Art under Attack: Histories of British Iconoclasm http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-britain/exhibition/art-under-attack-histories-british-iconoclasm and Landy and others in the exhibition talk about their work in the Guardian 28 September 2013 http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2013/sep/28/tate-britain-art-attack-artists-sabotage