Thursday, March 29, 2007
Gordon Matta-Clark: A Taxonomy for Total Process*
Seeing Gordon Matta-Clark’s exhibition at the Whitney recently, Matta-Clark’s body of work seems more than ever a perfect example of a total process turned towards the actualities of social, political, economic and spiritual relation. The scope of this process can be located in Matta-Clark’s documentation of his otherwise ephemeral, “dematerialized” works—works that would exist as pure traces of performance actions, architectural deconstructions and communally decisive “business” adventures were they not so deliberately recorded by various means. Matta-Clark no doubt took his lead for an artwork of total process from Robert Smithson and other "earthwork" artists, whose works he first encountered as a student at Cornell University. In the drawing and film works accompanying the performance of “Tree Dance,” where for days Matta-Clark and others inhabited a tree on the Cornell campus through a series of cots, ladders and nets, a total process projects itself as that which may give presence to ephemeral and “anti-material” or "aproductive" works—works that should otherwise not survive but through hearsay as a trace of historical occurrence erased before the fact of its historical existence.
The following is a taxonomy which may be helpful to initially mapping the various moments in a process supplementing Matta-Clark’s a-productive works. I put it forward towards a larger work on Matta-Clark as a case for what I am calling “total process”.
I. “Original” work: the work of an action, performance, social transaction, or architectural action before they should be erased, more or less entirely, from their physically-bound historicities.
II. Reliquary; Metonymically “present” objects, and secondary orders of objects (photos, films, written description / commentary / discursus):
a. First order reliquary:
1. ex., the hair of “Hair Piece”;
2. ex., the corners from the “Splitting” house, and other parts of structures from “Bingo” and “Office Baroque”;
b. Second order reliquary:
1. The newpapers an audience is allowed to take from “Wallspaper”;
III. Film documents:
a. Those films recording an action or performance; after the fact of the film being “shoot” one notices in all film documents the importance of the editing to inflect the meaning of the action, as in the abrupt/accidental edits of “Fresh Kills,” and the camera work of “Splitting,” which would place itself very much in the action, resting within the splitting of the house as the house is being split: that is, as taking place *with* that action.
a. Photo. of an ethnographic significance: “Hair-Piece,” “Reality Properties: Fake Estates,” graffiti works;
b. Anarchitecture: photos of sites of “anarchitecture,” where anarchitecture presents sites of social antagonism thru photo. processes—cropping, contrast, etc.
c. Photos with diagrams: in some photos a diagram drawn on the photo will actually highlight a potential intervention in a site, projecting this potential towards an actual intervention—as in “Arc de Triomph For Workers”…
d. Photo as mimetic: as in the case of the photos of pipes along the wall and ceiling of the Holly Solomon Gallery (1974);
e. Photo-collage: where the collage attempts to express a spatial-aural property of actual interventions (as in “Splitting” photo-docs.); or to “deconstruct” a content (as in “Reality Properties” and grafitti works—the horizontal photo.-collages producing disjuncture between each single photo in the series: a form for social antinomy/rupture?).
a. Drawings as sketches towards a performance or intervention;
b. Sculptural drawings: where cuts are made in a stack of paper projecting a cut in an (an)architectural object;
c. Drawings made diagramatically on photos: as in “Arc de Triomph”;
VI. Written documents:
a. Legal/business: documentation for “Food” restaurant—including menus, recipes, receipts, in addition to film footage of the restaurant atmosphere, staff, and clientele;
b. Psuedo-ethnographic: the documentation for “Hair,” which ironically reflects anthropological systems of representation: numbering zones of hair; graphing the human head phrenologically; recording “before,” “after” and in between and, as such, subjecting the human-object (—only subject/object turns back upen itself, becoming chiasmic, as Matta-Clark is both subject and object for himself, artist and art-work…)
a. “Photo-Fry” to Robert Smithson: product of “alchemical” processes;
b. Letters, drawings, and photos to projected “anarchitecturalists,” others…