Essays

Die Die Die: A Survey

Editor’s Note: This is an artist’s essay that explores some of the ideas put forward in Powers three part “Art, Not Suicide” essay published earlier this week (Part 1Part 2, Part 3).

Constantin Brancusi’s “Endless Column” in the workshop (1909); right, John Powers, “Die Die Die” (2007)

“Sculpture is dead.” — John Powers

“Nothing grows under big trees.” — Constantin Brancusi

Left, Carl Andre Family Plot, Quincy, Massachusetts; right, Chris Burden, “Exposing the Foundation of the Museum”(1986)

“A thing is a hole in a thing it is not.” — Carl Andre

“What should replace the missing object?” — Wassily Kandinsky, Reminiscences

“The world is like a hole and the hole itself is not hollow.” — Kazimir Malevich, God Is Not Cast Down

Left, Daniel Buren, “Eye of the Storm” (2005); right, Janet Cardif, “Forty Part Motet” (2001)

“Let us throw away monuments, sidewalks, arcades, steps: let us sink squares into the ground, raise the level of the city.” — Tommaso Marinetti and Antonio Sant’Elia, “Manifesto on Futurist Architecture”

“I’m interested for the most part in what’s not happening, that area between events which could be called the gap. This gap exists in the blank and void regions or settings that we never look at. A museum of different kinds of emptiness could be developed. The emptiness could be defined by the actual installation of the art. Installations could empty rooms not fill them.” — Robert Smithson, “What is a Museum” (1967)

“Minimal art was only trying to answer Pollock’s challenge and to capitalize on what lay latent and undeveloped in his work – that is, to expand the holism and purity into communal practice. If Pollock had been the prophet, minimalism was the church … The practitioners of pop art were farting in church.” — Robert Morris, “Size Matters” (2000)

Left, Image from Dario Gamboni’s “The Destrucion of Art” (1997); right, A view of Celso’s “Art Burn” at the Miami Art Fairs (photo by Hargo) (click to enlarge)

“ … The dead were burnt and their ashes placed inside of the sacred totem poles … Slaves used to be sacrificed in the post holes.” — Kalervo Oberg, The Social Economy of the Tlingit Indians

Left, Robert Smithson, “Partially Buried Woodshed” (1970); right, Cornelia Parker, “Dark Matter: An Exploded View” (1991)

“When Christians built Churches on the sites of pagan sanctuaries, incorporating the old capitals and columns in their naves, they were behaving as Hercules had with the Nemian lion, or Athena with Gorgon. In the hero’s relationship with the monster, what matters is this: … To kill the monster means to incorporate it in oneself, to take its place.” — Roberto Calasso, The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony

Left, Michael Heizer, “Double Negative” (1969); right, Philip Johnson’s Kunstbunker (1965) at the Glass House compound in New Canaan, Connecticut.

“Speaking of the hidden by means of the hidden, Is this not content?” — Wassily Kandinsky, Complete Writings

Left, Dirk Skreber, “Untitled Crash 1” (2009); right, Donald Judd, “Untitled” (1968)

“I looked around at everyone bathed in the blood red light of the back room. Dan Flavin had conceived his installation in response to the mounting death toll of the war in Vietnam. No one in the backroom was slated to die in Vietnam, though few would survive the cruel plagues of a generation.” — Patti Smith, Just Kids (2010)

Left, Tom Friedman, “A paper representation of the artist violently torn apart” (2000); right, François Girardon, “Louis XIV - foot fragment” (1699)

“We dropped abstraction off its sacred throne ’and spat on its altar.” — El Lissitzky, “Abstraction in the Twentieth Century”

“We have abandoned Futurism and we have spat on the altar of its art.” — Kazimir Malevich
Left, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, “Untitled - Orpheus, Twice” (1991); right, Robert Morris, “Two Columns” (1961)

“And finally, above all else, it is about leaving a mark that I existed: I was here. I was hungry. I was defeated. I was happy. I was sad. I was in love. I was afraid. I was hopeful. I had an idea and had a good purpose and that is why I made art.” — Felix Gonzalez-Torres in an interview with Tim Rollins (1993)

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