Destruction of My Works in the Impasse Ronsin, Paris
“Destrucción de mis obras en el Impasse Ronsin, París,” June 1963. Archivo Marta Minujín, Buenos Aires.
Spanish, translated by Maguerite Feitlowitz
In the middle of 1963 and already at the end of the scholarship that had allowed me to travel to France, I decided to destroy all the works I had made in those last three years, but I wanted to do so in a creative manner, approaching it from the point of view I had at the time about the death of art.
I had spent eight years at fine arts schools, and I had a pretty intense knowledge of drawing-painting-sculpture and prints. At the same time, in my work I had invented my own technique, which was in itself a contradiction of all that I had learned and believed in during the years before, like painting, sculpture, and traditional tools.
I was working with mattresses, which I got from hospitals, discarded and dirty, and I’d hang them on frames, adding a few pillows, which I’d splatter with white, black, and red paint.
I felt and believed that art was something more important for human beings than the eternity that only a few cultured ones could attain in museums and galleries; for me art was a way of intensifying life, of having an impact on the viewer by shaking him up, rousing him from his inertia. Why, then, was I going to keep my work? . . . So that it could die in cultural cemeteries, the eternity in which I had no interest? I wanted to live and make others live.
I was living in a studio in the rue Delambre; it was an enormous studio without water or heat. I’d rented it without caring about its lack of comfort. What I cared about was the immense space I could fill with the large constructions I was making at the time.
On the spur of the moment I decided to use that space as a gallery, and I invited two artists to exhibit with me, Lourdes Castro, originally from Portugal, and Miguel Otero, a Venezuelan. . . . We did a catalogue, in which I announced that at the end of the show I would destroy all of my pieces.
And that is how I began carefully to plan my first Happening. A month before, I started work on No. 1: finding a place to do it. Niki de Saint Phalle, [Jean] Tinguely, and Larry Rivers let me use an empty lot that bordered their studios.
Then I dedicated myself to organizing the exhibition; the rest of the Happening I would prepare during the show, which would be open to the public for twenty days. It was an interesting experience to exhibit in the studio: since the studio was white, we hung the works on the walls in the conventional manner although our works were far from conventional.
Lourdes Castro made some collage objects, boxes filled with things, very anecdotal, which she covered with silver spray paint; Miguel Otero was working with pieces of doors or Venetian blinds, on which he stuck letters written by different people.
I was presenting half of my pieces—the rest were waiting to be annihilated—mattresses attached to different forms, with pillows dripped with paint. I’d already begun to respect the fabric of the mattress, parts of which I left natural. It had also occurred to me to make invented mattresses, that is to say, not buy them used . . . but to make them myself. So I bought fabric and a glue pen and managed to borrow a sewing machine and the first one I made was my first environment. It was a kind of mattress-house, a construction of about three square meters of wood covered with overlapping, twisted-up, embracing mattresses, their stripes painted with bright fluorescent colors . . . that construction I hung in the center of the studio and people could enter and leave it as they wished.
These were very full days, people of all kinds came—critics, collectors, artists, marchands. No one could buy anything of mine, they could only observe, given that my works were destined for the butcher.
I took advantage of this time to invite artists to destroy my works. They had to show up at the empty lot (Impasse Ronsin) on June 6, at 6 p.m., bringing with them the elements of their work that best expressed them, and they had to create on my pieces (as symbolic destruction); they had to implant their images on mine, delete, erase, modify my works.
Create in order to destroy; burn out my identity. The big day arrived. I invited everyone in the Impasse and galleries. I’d already put announcements of the Happening in galleries and museums, and a huge number of people were intrigued and came to the destruction.