Smothered Art

Smothered ArtSmothered Art: set of 24 cards in glassine envelope, 5 x 3 inches, black-and-white offset lithography on card stock, limited edition of 500: $15   SORRY OUT OF PRINT AND OUT OF STOCK

Since I wrote (briefly) about my Smothered Art cards in a recent post, I thought I’d add them to the site since there are still some left of the original edition. These cards were the first project of my then-new Museum of Forgery and were designed with the goal of making it easier for artists to undertake the heartbreaking task of getting rid of unwanted or failed work. Often such work just sits around forever, haunting our studios with its reminder that even though we reject it we cannot disown it.

Twenty-one of these cards contain instructions for unusual ways to do away with art, including mulching, chaining, casting, skinning, poisoning, canning, drowning, and launching. There are also two blank cards for additional destructive methods, plus the cover card with the full title of this project:

A Compendium
of 21 Ways to
Mutilate, Destroy,
and otherwise
Artworks of All Kinds

with Space for
of Smothered Art
Extra Cards for the
Notating of
Individual Explorations
in Smothering.

On each of the 21 main cards, a small square area has been left blank for documentation of that method as carried out on a particular artwork—the idea being that each artist would interpret these methods differently, with widely varying results. Indeed, some of these destructive methods might come full circle and result in the creation of something new, even if just an idea or some raw materials. A completed set thus offers a unique view of an artist’s practice, a slice of autobiography, a record of resilience in the face  of loss.

As the Jungian psychologist James Hillman writes: “When things are not properly buried, cremated, or composted, could their souls remain as haunting and poisoning ghosts endangering the community? Pollution is not only chemical and radioactive. There is psychological pollution, too.”

Note 1: A work that I feel was carried out very much in the spirit of Smothered Art (though years earlier) is Dieter Roth’s Literature Sausage, which consists of sausage skins stuffed with onions, spices, and bits of chopped books.

Note 2: The Hillman quote is from James Hillman, Kinds of Power, Doubleday, 1995, p. 89.

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