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Art and destruction

Solvent form examines the destruction of art—through objects that have been destroyed (lost in fires, floods, vandalism, or similarly those artists that actively court or represent this destruction, such as Gustav Metzger), but also as a process within art that the object courts through form. In this manner, Solvent form looks to events such as the Momart warehouse fire in 2004 as well as the actions of art thief Stéphane Breitwieser in which the stolen work was destroyed. Against this overlay, a tendency is mapped whereby individuals attempt to conceptually gather these destroyed or lost objects, to somehow recoup in their absence. From this vantage, Solvent form—hinging on the dual meaning in the words solvent and solvency—proposes an idea of art as an attempt to secure and fix, which correspondingly undoes and destroys through its inception. It also weaves a narrative of art that intermingles with Jean Baudrillard’s ideas on disappearance, Georges Bataille and Paul Virilio’s negative or reverse miracle, Jean-Luc Nancy’s concept of the image (or imago as votive that keeps present the past, yet also burns), and Giorgio Agamben’s notion of art as an attempt to make the moment appear permeable. Likewise, it is through these destructions that one might distinguish a solvency within art and catch an operation in which something is made visible through these moments of destruction when art’s metaphorical undoing emerges as oddly literal.

Jared Pappas-Kelley

? During the early hours of May 24, 2004, in Leyton, East London, a warehouse caught fire [again a fire]. Situated within the rented warehouse space on an industrial estate in which the art storage company Momart housed work, a fire erupted when a thief broke into one of the thirty-four adjacent units in the converted factory [again a thief].1 The burglar, apparently after watches and inexpensive consumer electronics stored in a unit, set fire to the space, which because of the mixed nature of the site and the materials stored therein (including: “carpenter’s shop, a car

in Solvent form
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Jared Pappas-Kelley

(like the objects in Jones’s museum or Sarah Winchester’s mansion) it might somehow be tricked into revealing a truth, but also an undoing in tempting a Momart or a Tinguely through its actions. Saying (mutely) I am this thing, to which Bataille might reply, “But the past did not lie in the way he believed: in truth, it lied only insofar as, in its ponderousness, it represented as a thing that which in principle could not be one.”10 Further, this is the truth of the lie; like a Winchester House, undoing to remake, art attempts to outmaneuver or spend something, to

in Solvent form
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Jared Pappas-Kelley

to create light, something is destroyed, yet something intangible presents as classical and contemporary forms are expended and drip into almost nothing tangible, the disfigurement of wax on the gallery floor. However, these objects are not only about passing (or time or solvency), but also about a sort of alterity, a third approximation that steps in and is not the original object nor the object’s absence, but some other frisson created between. Perhaps these burning objects trigger something akin to the works lost in the Momart fire (which will be examined in the

in Solvent form
Jared Pappas-Kelley

1 The destruction of art Solvent form examines art and destruction—through objects that have been destroyed (lost in fires, floods, vandalism, or, similarly, those that actively court or represent this destruction, such as Christian Marclay’s Guitar Drag or Chris Burden’s Samson), but also as an undoing process within art that the object challenges through form itself. In this manner, events such as the Momart warehouse fire in 2004 (in which large holdings of Young British Artists (YBA) and significant collections of art were destroyed en masse through arson

in Solvent form