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Gordon Matta-Clark-2

This first decade of the new millennium is turning out to be the disaster decade.  The devastation of New Orleans is particularly disturbing. It points out how fragile the infra-structure of our society is, and how easily it can be overwhelmed.  Right now the U.S. government is formulating an urban planning design for the new New Orleans. This sort of top-down planning is something that Gordon Matta Clark was dead set against. He saw the architects and urban planners, who in the 1960’s destroyed many neighborhoods in inner cities, as megalomaniacs.  For the 1970’s generation, moving into run down or neglected parts of the city and creating new communities was preferable to moving out to the planned communities of suburbia. It allowed for creative repurposing of disused factories and warehouses.
The tragedy of New Orleans is that part of it’s charm lay in its unplanned neighborhoods, the conglomeration of housing styles, and the cultural mix of it’s communities has been washed away. I imagine if Gordon were alive today he would be down in New Orleans trying to organize the rebuilding from a community-based standpoint. I can see him coming up with solutions to keeping those communities intact, perhaps by creating temporary villages close to the original neighborhoods.  Indeed, I can only hope that a new generation of rag-tag utopianists will take up the challenge and occupy New Orleans before Halliburton has a chance to turn it into another sterile Disneyland on the Missisippi.
The question, “what would Gordon Matta-Clark do?’ has been coming up lately. I had a conversation with Richard Nonas about the Matta-Clark retrospective at the Whitney. Since the Whitney is expanding into the brownstones next door to it, I thought it might be interesting to propose an homage building-cut for the retrospective. Richard didn’t think that was a good idea but he did think it would make an interesting panel discussion with the subject, what would Matta-Clark do. I know that just before he died the MoMA was going to start its first renovation. Gordon had proposed cutting its’ fascade and they had agreed to let him do it. He got sick and was never able to proceed. If he were alive today, he might very well have proposed a building cut for the Whitney. But then again maybe  not.  Gordon didn’t see the first expansion of the MoMA.  I and many other people who entered the new MoMA’s  first expansion  saw a building that was fairly intimate in scale, perhaps one could say, brownstone scale, replaced by a building that was shopping mall scale. The latest MoMA expansion has taken it to airport scale and made it into a series of mini museums to house private collections.  One wonders what the social aspect are behind the Whitney expansion. Is the expansion made to house more permanent galleries?  In anycase, one can point to Hans Haacke as the inspiration for institutional critique but one can also look at Gordon Matta-Clark as a creator of alternatives.