Monica Bonvicini

Born in 1965 in Venice (IT)
Lives and works in Berlin (DE) and Los Angeles, California (US)


Drywall panels and Styrofoam
Dimensions variables
Year of Purchase: 2003

The destiny of any artwork? To be preserved from the ravages of time and of the public. Monica Bonvicini on the contrary hands her work over to the promise of destruction. Made of a rough plaster and polystyrene floor, placed on the floor of the exhibition venue, her installation Plastered gradually deteriorates as visitors walk over it. With their every step, the smooth space cracks up until it is a field of ruins, a grey sea of ice. The work comes into its own in its theatrical demolition. It is hard not to think of Marguerite Duras and her attempts at destructuring the work of art, something the artist openly claimed in Destroy She Said (1998).

As a player in this aesthetics of desolation, the visitor is invited to join in a process of deconstruction parallel to the one undertaken by the artist during the 1990s. A vandal feminist and heir to the ‘anarchitect’ Gordon Matta-Clark as much as to the politician Martha Rosler, Monica Bonvicini doggedly lays bare all the ideologies underlying architecture, revealing how much the smallest space proves to be deeply culturally determined and absolutely gender-based, how it is a place of repression, authority (male, intellectual), the embodiment of all the mechanisms of power … These apparently smooth spaces which she turns into spaces charged with irrationality and sexuality. In this way she will occasionally look at the antiheroes of the architecture epic, the workmen, or stage the machismo she claims is inherent in the modern¬ist minimalist dogma. Testimony to this is her work Je crois en la peau des choses comme en celle des femmes (I believe in the skin of things as in that of women), inspired by something Le Corbusier said: a frantic, hammered space, relieved by a small drawing of a man with an erection, accompanied by the phrase ‘A window is a man, it stands up’, signed Perret.

Her video Hammering out (an old argument) is one of these enraged reactions, that she knows how to oppose to such postulates. We see an arm, which we guess is female, attacking a wall with a sledgehammer. For her, the wall embodies the transposition of male chauvinist power into the architecture; it is also the locus for all kinds of metonymy: a metaphor of gender and class separation; a theoretical impasse and a place of meaningful silence. Gradually, as the hammer does its worst, the bricks appear through from the layer below; an allusion to this eternal return forced on all creative work, and also to the hidden rhetoric that serves as a conceptual basis for these apparently neutral spaces. ‘For me, there is no such thing as a neutral architecture. Nothing is neutral from the moment you open a door and go in somewhere’, she says.1 This video echoes another earlier one called Wallfucking (1995), which shows the erotic encounter between a naked young woman and the corner of a room. To pervert rather than knock down? Placed facing the wall, the female body becomes the site of every kind of dissent.

Emmanuelle Lequeux

1 In Interview with Michele Robecchi for Contemporary, London, n° 74, 2005.