This free event of destruction art is brought to you by the letter K and the big companies that are the sponsors of the Melbourne Festival.
Spanish artist Santiago Sierra is notable for being controversial and Melbourne loves an art controversy. Sierra’s Destroyed Word part 10 at the Melbourne Festival was a bonfire in the forecourt of ACCA. A large letter made from tea tree brush on a wooden frame had been constructed on a bed of sand.
It was a shame that Sierra hadn’t chosen letters that are mirror reversible as I was seeing the back of the K. (I don’t know what 10 letter word he was spelling out yet – this was a teaser stunt for Sierra’s exhibition at NGV International later this month.)
The crowd drinking in the lobby of ACCA for the opening of “Ourselves” were ushered outside for the big event. Lots of people just came along just for the bonfire and they weren’t disappointed. This was an art event not just art cognoscenti but for the whole family. People in the crowd might have made joke about marshmallows before the flames took hold but once the conflagration had begun they watched in awe. It was impressive, beautiful and it was all over in just over 15 minutes; destructive art doesn’t last long.
Sierra’s work is right out of Gustav Metzger’s 1959 manifesto on “Auto-Destructive Art” – “Auto destructive art is primarily a form of public art for industrial societies. Self-destructive painting, sculpture and construction is a total unity of ideas, site, form, colour, method and timing of the disintegrative process. Auto-destructive art can be created with natural forces, traditional art techniques and technological techniques.”
Sierra’s destruction of the word reminded me of Wm. Burroughs The Ticket That Exploded. Burroughs shows how language creates illusions and desires and then rubs out the word, cutting it up into smaller fragments until he has destroyed the illusion. Like the Buddhist monks who create elaborate mandalas of coloured sand only to sweep them away when completed.