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Lesson Plans


Re: beauty/destruction

[ Thread ][ Subject ][ Author ][ Date ]
R. Moore (ronmoore)
Mon, 23 Nov 1998 13:37:14 -0800 (PST)


L. Muelder has been discussing the destruction of artworks with his
students, and has found them horrified by the wanton violence done against
art, historically. There are some very interesting works on this topic,
and some wonderful examples of willing destruction. I can't remember the
name of the new book (published just last year) on DESTRUCTION OF ART, but
I'll look it up when I get home and get back to you. It's a dandy. And
there's an essay by James O. Young called "Destroying Artworks," In
JOURNAL OF AESTHETICS AND ART CRITICISM (I'll look up the volume, etc. on
that one too). If you are interested in pursuing this topic in class, I
recommend you start by consider the historical phenomenon of the
ICONOCLASTS, literally "image breakers," who systematically destroyed
artworks they held to be antithetical to regligious precepts. Then
consider the trial of Paolo Veronese before the Holy Tribunal of the
Inquisition (1537), documented in Veronese, "Trial Before the Holy
Tribunal," in Elizabeth G. Holt, ed., LITERARY SOURCES OF ART HISTORY: AN
ANTHOLOGY OF TESTS FROM THEOPHILUS TO GOETHE (1947), for official
censorship. Then the well-documented acts of Hitler's Third Reich against
"degenerate" artworks (Schlemmer, Nolde, etc.). And then, of course the
NEA flap.
It is also worthwhile considering the question of when artworks
SHOULD be destroyed. There are some recent works that have to be
destroyed after a while because of the limited temporal endurance of their
material. "Shirt for an Anorexic," a work made entirely of flank steak,
and shown in a Seattle Museum recently, had to be destroyed once the
steak started rotting. Similarly with Beuys's works made of lard. Or
butter. Museum curators have faced problems of deteriorating materials
for a long time. One very interesting twist comes with totem poles. Some
Native Americans have claimed that totem poles should have a life, just as
we have, with a natural beginning, middle, and end; so they should be left
outside where they can weather and eventually return to the earth. And
then there is the famous "Erased De Kooning," by Robert Rauschenberg, a
work that consisted in the complete erasure (and hence destruction) of a
previous artwork.
This is clearly an area in which a great deal of interesting
discussion can be generated.
Ron Moore