I took my kids to see Zombieland the other day. (Because yes, I am an awesome mother.) It was a highly enjoyable experience, more than any of us had anticipated, honestly, and chief among the many excellent moments was the scene in which the four nonzombies who are our heroes realize the rules of quotidian life no longer pertain and lay waste to a souvenir shop, smashing and crushing and pulverising all the cheap tat that stocks the shop’s shelves. It is an exhilarating moment, for sure, because transgression so often is, and transgression that involves destruction? Ding ding ding! We have a winner, folks!
That being said, I’m sure it’ll come as no surprise to you that I love it when visual art suggests violent movement. Man, there is just something so compelling about smashworld — and its appeal goes well beyond the thrill of transgression (though I would never downplay the power of that). There’s a contrapuntal reality at play in this kind of art that’s just delicious, because underlying the big booming crash of it there is a beautiful sad keening to it too. I like that kind of oppositional stuff, that layering of unlike attributes. I like the yin and the yang, the bitter and the sweet, always. Naturally, too, I like how much this kind of art recognizes the transience of things, the ahness of things, the mono no awareness of things.
And the thought occurs to me that maybe in some way all art either butts head or holds hands with (wheeee! more contradiction!) mono no aware. Maybe all art is made in an attempt to stop the clock, to freeze in time a feeling or thought or emotion, to counteract the truth that — fossil record be damned — in the end there is only mutability, impermanence. Time pushes, hard, but sometimes we push back, and I like art that pushes back, a lot. I like it almost as much as I like the deep velvety melancholia, the deep shivery ache, of the transience of things. And I like Christian Tedeschi’s altered shopping carts very much indeed because in them I find both the push and the shiver. I like Lee Mawdsley’s photographs for the same reason, and Martin Klimas’s too. Both photographers record the moment of familiar objects being transformed by violence, catching those objects when their original forms are recognizable and yet they are clearly and unstoppably on the way to becoming something else. It is maybe a bit like when the spirit stops animating a living creature, the profound change that occurs in the moment when the lights go out.
It’s big, this art, even as it makes little tiny smashy pieces happen.
Briac Leprêtre, La Chapelle des Calvairiennes, 2008:
Italian artist Michelangelo Pistoletto breaks mirrors during a performance for the creation of his "Twentytwo less two" installation on the second day of vernissage of the 53rd Biennale International Art Exhibition in Venice, Italy, Friday, June 5, 2009. (AP Photo/Alberto Pellaschiar) Via The Big Picture