Performances & Interventions by Gordon Matta-Clark

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Why hang things on a wall when the wall itself is so much more a challenging medium?

Much of Matta-Clark’s early work consisted of performances in the strict sense of the word, though most indeed were architecture-related. Tree Dance, Garbage Wall and Fresh Kill are such examples. Clockshower (1973) was one of his most daring performances. Hanging from the enormous clock-face of a bell tower, high above the streets of New York, he had himself a wash, a shave, and even brushed his teeth to boot! In the latter years of his brief career, as well, Matta-Clark would continue doing performances. Window Blow Out (1976) was as ‘action’ no less than a vandalism spree: using an air rifle, the artist shot out the windows of a building playing host to the architecture exhibition ‘Idea as Model’ (after photographing smashed windows of a derelict Bronx housing project – rapidly withdrawn from the exhibition)). That was his personal contribution. He had made his statement: for Matta-Clark, architects saw deteriorated buildings only as objects to be demolished and the replaced by new ones that would inevitably end up the same way, without taking the needs of local residents into account.

Aside from these performances in the strict sense, Matta-Clark also considers his making of cuttings as performances. As he himself puts it: ‘The work and the process are intimately related with each other like a form of theatre where both the working process and the structural changes to and in the building, are the performances (…) a continuous act for passers-by, just like the construction site is a stage-scene for bustling passing pedestrians’. (Gordon Matta-Clark)

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