Destruction of personal possessions as art or revenue?

My girlfriend sent me a link to the Telegraph with an article on Michael Landy’s ‘new’ ‘art’ project titled “Break Down”. I have liberally used commas as, honestly, I struggle to see this as neither a new process nor art.

I feel that the whole premise of the performance is clarified in the opening paragraph, where it states that the ’14-day artist’s “performance” [is] commissioned by Artangel’. It is my opinion that this kind of “performance” could only be made by a person with no personal effects (and I have met some artists of this nature), or with the promise of a large sum of money.

I do, generally, have great difficulty with conceptual (and) performance art, as I feel that they are often devoid of those aspects which give art its purpose: nominally those that give something to the spectator, and those which leave something to posterity. The kind of performance that Michael Landy has created leaves nothing, as everything is destroyed in the process, and gives nothing more than a voyeuristic sense of gratification that shall be short-lived. It is highly unlikely that someone would visit his ‘performance’ and then talk to friend in the pub later on about how sensational it was to see this man in a boiler suit placing his DVDs and art collection on a conveyor belt in a dusty room. The whole effort feels less grounded than dedicating an hour a day to religiously watching Big Brother on TV.

So what is the artist hoping to obtain from this inane destruction of personal property? It is not going to be documented in art-history as being a piece ‘destroyed by the artist’: we all know Umberto Boccioni’s futurist sculptures of which there are few in existence, however photographs remain of other delightful forms that the artist destroyed. No, we will not have an entry with a snapshot of a man’s flat, dated 2011, with ‘destroyed by the artist’ underneath, as it would not be of any interest.

I have a problem with destruction as it is: I struggle to throw away a blank piece of paper, as it has potential; I struggle to throw away a doodled piece of paper as it might be important. Though destroying things that can be replaced, like DVDs, is less problematic, their destruction still creates an inane hole in society: a waste of resources. Destroying other people’s art seems purely disrespectful of their time and effort, especially when the purpose of the act is purely that of destruction, even if the aim of this is for personal gain.


Tobias Feltus: