Building Dissections

As a result of the postmodern contributions of Matta Clark and his contemporaries, architecture is beginning to follow in the expressive and subversive vein of other art forms. For the majority of twentieth century, architecture was absent from the interweaving discourses of the art world.  It was absent from ideological disputes sparked by the painters and sculptured that shaped modern art.  Architecture “was not integral to that lexicon” (40). The primary reason for this is rooted in the perceived role of art to push boundaries and break down conventions.  The artist possibilities of architecture’s is compromised by its need to also be pragmatic and confined by the fundamentals of functionality. The interview with Matta-Clark discusses how his approach towards the art form differs from others in his field.

Straying from the traditions of Bauhaus and Corborisier, Matta Clark defies convention and offers new avenues to conceptualize the possibilities of the art form. For Matta-Clark, the only thing that differentiates architecture from sculpture is plumbing.  Finding the architectural approach of his contemporaries imprisoning, his work aims to subvert normative understandings of housing structures.  He sees no difference between the “self containerization” of suburbia and the sprawling projects of the ghetto. What he sees is the ‘deformation of values (ethics) in the disguise of modernity, renewal, urban planning” (47).

With this said, Matta-Clark’s approach is conceptually rooted in undermining the architectural conventions that have dehumanized the domestic and institutional condition.  What Matta Clark is known for is splitting houses quite literally down its center.   Obviously, the act has no intention of improving the living conditions of those inhabiting it- in fact often the houses are abandoned at the time.  Yet, it feels counter-intuitive for an architect to ‘destroy’ a dilapidated building, rather than attempt to renovate it.  Yet this is not how Matta-Clark perceives it.  For him, his aspiration stems from the hope that his structural intervention will translate as a semiotic mode of communication.  Social stratification, competing historical narratives, subdivisions of space and pride all serves as interweaving discourses that inform his work.  When questioned about his profession and his failure to solve ‘humanity’s problems’, Matta-Clark replies  “I don’t think most practitioners are solving anything except how to make a living.” (46)

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