Issue Number: 115
Michael Landy RA tells Ben Luke about a lesson in destruction he is giving at the Hayward Gallery
What would happen if you let artists create a school for adults in a gallery space? The Hayward Gallery puts the idea to the test this summer with ‘Wide Open School’, a month-long event in which 80 artists from around the world are leading workshops, seminars and debates and creating performances around subjects they are passionate about.
Classes, from one-hour sessions to short courses in which artists facilitate collaborative projects, will include opportunities for participants to exhibit the results in the Hayward’s upper galleries. RA speakers include Tracey Emin and Antony Gormley, while Michael Landy RA is running a two-day workshop.
Michael Landy RA, 'Break Down', 2001. Courtesy of Michael Landy and Thomas Dane Gallery.
Landy’s chosen topic is not one we often associate with school: destruction. But this subject has dominated his career. Famously, in Break Down (2001) he destroyed all his possessions, including his car and artworks by Emin and Damien Hirst. More recently, inspiration has come from Jean Tinguely’s Homage to New York (1960) a kinetic sculpture that destroyed itself. Though Landy had not finalised the details of his workshop for ‘Wide Open School’ when he spoke to RA Magazine, Tinguely’s work remains in his thinking. ‘Maybe the participants would have to sacrifice something that is dear to them,’ Landy says, ‘and then we would maybe break all these things down, create a sculpture, and then destroy that.’
There is a point to Landy’s preoccupation – Break Down was ‘an examination of consumerism and of the self’, he says. ‘It changed me at the age of 37. Up until that time, I was a relatively happy consumer, but once one does something like that, then you are much more aware of possessing things and acquiring things. I did find the two weeks very liberating.’