Destruction and Creation

Last year my Illustration group were discussing the impulse to 'destruct', especially when one is young. As a kind of creative-play-process. Some had been reading 'The Destructors', a short story by Graham Greene, about a gang of boys who systematically destroy a house from the inside out:

Smash all the china and glass and bottles you can lay hold of. Don't turn on the taps - we don't want a flood - yet. Then go into all the rooms and turn out the drawers. If they are locked get one of the others to break them open. Tear up any papers you find and smash all the ornaments. Better take a carving knife with you from the kitchen. The' bedroom's opposite here. Open the pillows and tear up the sheets. That's enough for the moment. And you, Blackie, when you've finished in here crack the plaster in the passage up with your sledge-hammer.' 'What are you going to do?' Blackie asked. 'I'm looking for something special,' T. said. It was nearly lunch-time before Blackie had finished and went in search of T. Chaos had advanced. The kitchen was a shambles of broken glass and china. The dining-room was stripped of parquet, the skirting was up, the door had been taken off its hinges, and the destroyers had moved up a floor. Streaks of light came in through the closed shutters where they worked with the seriousness of creators - and destruction after all is a form of creation."

A clip from 'Steamboat Bill Jr.", Buster Keaton's classic of 1928. You may know artist Steve McQueen's appropriation of this moment. Keaton performed all his own stunts and this had to work. There is some connection surely between the visceral enjoyment of making and un-making.

Steeplejack Fred Dibnah's chimney demolitions gained a cult following until his death a couple of years ago. Again the process is essential viewing; as Tim cites below, the relationship between planning and on-the-hoof-reactive decision-making is fundamental. As this documentary suggests, the 'live' gathering had a similar motive to that which congregated for public hangings.

1 comment:

riddlywalker said...

The overwhelming urge to destroy works of Art is known as "David's Syndrome" (after an incident with a hammer and a Michaelangelo). I suppose if you are cured of that- there is a risk that you then develop "Stendhal Syndrome" where you fall to the ground in a swoon, overcome by the beauty you once wanted to destroy..........