What does one do when traditional art has been made superfluous—in a society in which “wealth presents itself as ‘an immense accumulation of commodities’,” and the individual accumulation of commodities comes to define (and often seems to override all other forms of) personal and social identity?
The answer, for British artist Michael Landy [ht: ja], was to devise a radically new kind of artwork, in which he decided to destroy every single one of his possessions in public.
I remember when, in 2001, Landy proceeded to carry out his project—when, having compiled an exhaustive inventory of his belongings that ran to 7,227 items, he proceeded to destroy them:
During the course of two weeks, every single one – clothes, love letters, artworks, his Saab 900 Turbo car, even his father’s sheepskin coat – was stripped, shredded, crushed, dismantled, or otherwise destroyed by Landy and his team of 12 assistants, while listening to David Bowie and Joy Division. When they had finished, the artist owned nothing at all, apart from the blue boiler suit he had been wearing throughout. He called the project Break Down.
Now, extensive documentation of Break Down is part of Out of Order, his mid-career retrospective at the Museum Tinguely in Basel, which also includes Market, Scrapheap Services, and Credit Card Destroying Machine.
‘Out of Order’ will reflect on our daily confrontation with consumer culture, politics and events that move us, it is steeped in language and symbols that permeate life in Britain. The exhibition hopes to offer an opportunity for the audience to consider the impact of consumer culture on society, by raising important questions about how these systems work and by encouraging the viewers to celebrate the act of destruction.