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Gordon Matta-Clark's photographic spaces

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Title: Gordon Matta-Clark's photographic spaces
Author: Zacharias, Erica Ashley
Degree Master of Arts - MA
Program Art History
Copyright Date: 2011
Publicly Available in cIRcle 2011-10-24
Abstract: Gordon Matta-Clark (1943-1978) is best known for his experimental “building cuts,” in which he reconfigured whole architectural spaces slated for destruction in North and South America, and in Europe. An extensive scholarship theorizes Matta-Clark’s practice as a critique of his architectural education and a recuperation of the social spaces outside its purview. Today, audiences view Matta-Clark’s building cuts through the two-dimensional media of film and photography, further complicating the original works’ play with temporality and performance. Recent scholarship has seen photography as central to Matta-Clark’s performance-based and sculptural practice. This thesis addresses a gap in scholarship between Matta-Clark’s photography and his ephemeral works. Matta-Clark’s use of photography as document relates to the Land Art practice of exhibiting outdoor works inside the gallery. His photographs also engage in the photoconceptual practice of questioning that very documentary status. I trace three modalities for the photographic within Matta-Clark’s works: image (referent), object (medium), and apparatus (technology). I suggest that the photographic image is historically situated by the latter two categories as an ontologically specific space, at once material and abstract, technological and theoretical. My research draws on theoretical discourses underpinning Modernist architecture. The role of photography is belied in Modernist architectural discourse, a mainstay of Cornell’s architecture program under the leadership of historian Colin Rowe, from which Matta-Clark received a BArch in 1968. I find an unstated connection between photography and phenomenal transparency, a term defined in Rowe and Robert Slutzky’s influential essay, “Transparency: Literal and Phenomenal,” where it is used to describe the abstraction of space in the work of Le Corbusier. I set up a theoretical framework for the conceptual role of photography in Matta-Clark’s practice by being attentive to the relationship between photography and architecture through the photographic slice, the visualized analog to the sculptural cut. I argue that in order to criticize the supposed transparency of both photography and architecture apparent in contemporary art practices and Modernist architectural discourse respectively, Matta-Clark’s work investigated the two media in tandem.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/2429/38192
Scholarly Level: Graduate

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