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Outside the Museum

Discover the work of two artists who thought beyond the confines of a museum.


Bingo

Gordon Matta-Clark
(American, 1943–1978)

1974. Building fragments: painted wood, metal, plaster, and glass, three sections, Overall 69" x 25' 7" x 10" (175.3 x 779.8 x 25.4 cm)

To create Bingo, Gordon Matta-Clark cut pieces from the facade of a house in Niagara Falls, New York, that was slated for demolition. It took a team of assistants 10 days to “unbuild” the house. Working 12 hours per day with a small team, he cut the north facade into nine equivalent rectangles (each nine feet wide and five feet tall), and then removed each one until only the central rectangle remained. Matta-Clark kept the three sections of the building pictured here, and deposited the remaining five in a nearby sculpture park, where he hoped they would be “gradually reclaimed by the Niagara River Gorge.”

Sawing huge pieces out of buildings might sound destructive, but Matta-Clark believed it ultimately created visual order. Giving new life to buildings with demolition in their future—a process Matta-Clark called “anarchitecture”—opened up a view into the invisible—the normally hidden interior walls and floors. Of his choice of medium, Matta-Clark said, “Why hang things on the wall when the wall itself is so much more a challenging medium? A simple cut or series of cuts acts as a powerful drawing device able to redefine spatial situations and structural components.”

Gordon Matta-Clark, in The Making of “Bingo,” 1974. Super 8, color, silent, 9:40 min.

A three-dimensional work of art made by a variety of means, including carving wood, chiseling stone, casting or welding metal, molding clay or wax, or assembling materials.

A work of art made with a pencil, pen, crayon, charcoal, or other implements, often consisting of lines and marks (noun); the act of producing a picture with pencil, pen, crayon, charcoal, or other implements (verb, gerund).

The materials used to create a work of art, and the categorization of art based on the materials used (for example, painting [or more specifically, watercolor], drawing, sculpture).

Any public-facing side of a building, often featuring decorative finishes.

What’s in a Name?
The artist called this work Bingo because the facade, when cut into nine pieces, resembled the grid of a Bingo game card. In his complete vision for the project, Matta-Clark hoped to cut out the central panel of the opposite facade and leave the rest intact, to create a negative, or opposite, of this facade, but there was not enough time. He explained in his film The Making of “Bingo” that “an hour later, the bulldozer arrived.”1

Deconstructing Construction
Matta-Clark said, “By un-doing a building there are many aspects of the social condition against which I am gesturing: to open a state of enclosure which had been preconditioned not only by physical necessity but by the industry that profligates suburban and urban boxes as a context for insuring a passive, isolated consumer—a virtually captive audience…Under contract with the city I was to complete the work in ten days, during which time a major part of the exterior was to be sectioned into 9 equal parts, measuring 5’ x 9’. Eight of the façade segments were cut free, lowered intact, and crated for transport.”

Questions & Activities

  1. In the Weeds?

    Matta-Clark said the building from which Bingo came was “last used as a beauty parlor removed to make room for weeds.” What do you think he meant by this statement?

    Write down your interpretation in a short poem or 200-word essay.

Take a Closer Look Click or tap on the highlighted details.

Bingo

Gordon Matta-Clark (American, 1943–1978)