Structures of Destruction

a cluster proposal by Bruno Besana

This panel aims to investigate and experiment with the idea that destruction, far from being either a negative term to be rejected or a moment to be passed through in order for the new to appear, can be conceived as a positive means of construction, an activity provided with its own narrative and temporality. Already in 20th century thought and art practice, destruction appears to be dissociated from negation, and something emerges like a positive or constructive side of it. From Matta-Clark’s and Rachel Whiteread collapsing structures to Ulay’s disappearing photos and Jia Zhang-Ke crumbling cities, from Diether Roth rotting works to Malevich’s pharmacy full of pots containing the ashes of destroyed classical painting, the idea appears that a true novelty is essentially inseparable from destruction. The construction of novelty can arise from within the process of destruction, when destruction is meant as a process or sequence provided with its own structures, its own tempo, its own narrative: such an idea seems to adequately respond to the need – present both in the radical political thought of the ‘60s and ‘70s and in philosophers such as Althusser, Nancy, Badiou, Rancière, Esposito – to find a novelty free from any dialectical bond with the old, and hence free also from a position of simple negation of the old. In all these cases destruction is not dealt with as a moment that is necessary in order to make room for the new to come; it is no longer conceived as a pars denstruens to which a pars construens will follow; instead, it is activated and manipulated as a sequence of actions disconnected from any relation with the old, and that evolves out of its own resources. Via theoretical presentations, performative lectures and artworks, this panel will question and elaborate upon the different approaches that artworks, politics and philosophy have offered to this peculiar convergence of the idea of construction and destruction.