Like many of the artists of the 1970s, Gordon Matta-Clark was concerned with the impact of a capitalist-driven society on an urban setting. After studying architecture at Cornell University, Matta-Clark devoted himself to the concept of anarchitecture. Anarchitecture is an architectural art in which Matta-Clark used a subtractive method to create works from preexisting buildings. Through this idea of unbuilding, Matta-Clark sought to oppose the capitalistic motives of contemporary society, while also commenting on the social concerns of urban dwelling. By closely analyzing Reality Properties: Fake Estates (1973) (Figure 1), Day's End (1975) (Figure 2) and Window Blowout (1976) (Figure 3), this paper will expose the underlining political and social motives of Gordon Matta-Clark's art.
Although Matta-Clark worked internationally- some of his most famous works were located in Paris and Antwerp- Reality Properties: Fake Estates, Day's End and Window Blowout are all set in New York City. Therefore, it is imperative to consider the political, economic and social concerns that confronted the city in the 1970s. Matta-Clark, a native New Yorker, found himself an inhabitant of a deurbanizing city, in which all aspects of urban life suffered. New York City had come to symbolize the nation's urban crisis; drugs and crime flourished while the population declined leaving the landscape to be dominated by abandoned buildings. In turn, these developments pointed to the inadequacy of the municipal government. However, in this dire setting of urban decay, Matta-Clark found a source of inspiration. Ultimately, it led him to expose the wild inefficiencies of the city's authorities and emphasize the detrimental impact he thought capitalism and modernism had on the city. Such motives can be observed in his Reality Properties: Fake Estates.
[...] In doing so, Matta-Clark is also, reviving the “useless” building before it is termination and in a way “preserving” it. Opposite to Day's End, which required its viewer to leave Manhattan and step into less affluent areas, Window Blowout brought the Bronx to Manhattan. In December 1976, Matta-Clark was invited by the Institute for Architecture and Urban Resources to partake in an exhibit entitled “Idea as Model.” The show was intended to celebrate the “progress represented by the evolving megalopolis.” Richard Meier, Michael Graves and Peter Eisenman, three of the “high profile architects from the so-called New York were among its participants. The New York Five represented architects who were the forerunners in modernism, thus “allied to institutions and big business.” Moreover, they stood for everything Matta-Clark was against. [...]
[...] Matta-Clark had several social objectives in his shoot-out. Firstly, Matta-Clark saw the Bronx as the “epitome of urban neglect” and in order to draw attention to this he needed to “invert the urban structure” by bringing the Bronx to Manhattan. Like Day's End, he was forcing his viewer to acknowledge the prevalence of neglect that had casted over areas outside of Manhattan. This comparison of the quality of life was underscored by Eisenman's reaction of demanding the windows be replaced at once: this deterioration was intolerable there, why was it tolerable day in and day out in the South Bronx?” Furthermore, by juxtaposing Manhattan's quality of life with that of the Bronx's, Matta-Clark was demonstrating the “bureaucratic or juridical ambivalence and in-action.” His actions are also aimed to evoke the emotions of those dwelling in the dire conditions of public housing. [...]
[...] He was demanding the art community to leave Manhattan and forcing the acknowledgement of the poor and rough setting of his creation. Matta-Clark sought to awaken New Yorkers; his work “reinforced a sense that the decaying quarters were the real New York, as opposed to the gracious homes of the Upper East Side.” Furthermore, Day's End literally required the viewer to not only observe this devastated area, but also submit themselves to the potential dangers of Pier 52 and its criminal inhabitants. [...]
[...] “Splitting and Doubling: Gordon Matta-Clark and the Body of Sculpture.” The MIT Press 14 (2004): 26-45. Accessed November
[...] However, it is known that the work was to consist of three parts: written document of all the pieces of land, including exact dimensions and locations and perhaps a list of weeds growing there, full scale photographs of properties and the property itself.” Matta-Clark also alluded to his intention of displaying the first two parts in a gallery and when buyers would purchase the documentation and photographs they would also receive the deed to the property. After Matta-Clark photographed the properties and gathered their documentation, he placed them in a box and gave them to local art collector and friend, Norman Fisher, without any instructions on how to assemble the work. Ironically Reality Properties: Fake Estates was not displayed until 1990s, after the properties had returned to the ownership of the city. [...]
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