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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.

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Jared Pappas-Kelley

for forestalling a verdict1 and extending her moments against foreclosure and maintaining their permeability—or likewise as Sarah Winchester’s task of attempting to build a metaphorical house that never ceased, with her construction of the Winchester House,2 we might better perceive this conjunctive impulse that behaves in peculiar ways, finding it again in the large melting wax candle sculptures of Urs Fischer. Scheherazade tells a story; a king’s edict However, first, to understand a work of art and its capacity to recapture the moment that counts—making the

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
Rowland Atkinson and Sarah Blandy

markers and socio-political action directed at excluding, zoning-out and otherwise avoiding difference and danger. Conclusion Sarah Winchester, heiress of the repeating rifle company, famously built a house over many decades with false stairways and corridors to thwart the spirits of those that might haunt her, killed by the weapons her husband had manufactured. Like Winchester’s, many social fears among the affluent emerge in relation to those excluded or damaged by our social system, seeking the potential protections offered by the home. Perhaps the most important

in Domestic fortress
Rowland Atkinson and Sarah Blandy

actions that will add still more vigour to the selfpropagating capacity of fear’ (Bauman 2006: 143, original emphasis). Fear breeds fear, so even if physical withdrawal can be achieved, empirical research suggests that anxieties remain significant even in ‘secure’ gated communities (Low, 2003). The impossibility of achieving peace of mind through defensive architecture is more bizarrely illustrated by the efforts of Sarah Winchester, wealthy heiress to her deceased husband’s fortune, acquired through the patented rifle of the same name. Fearing retribution by the ghosts

in Domestic fortress
Jared Pappas-Kelley

also burns), and Giorgio Agamben’s notion of art as an attempt to make the 4 Solvent form moment appear permeable. With this, as Bataille proposes, art emerges from a shipwreck with the moment in which assumptions, expectations, or what appears fixed are ultimately undone. Likewise, these destructions are considered through narratives such as Sarah Winchester obsessively building the Winchester Mansion in San Jose, California, as an attempted house that never ceased. Alongside these attempts to construct an undoing, and amid a volatile remainder in art, these

in Solvent form