The Anarchitecture Group

Group – New York, United States

1972 – 1975

Based in New York in the 1970s, Anarchitecture was an artists' group whose members included artists Laurie Anderson, Tina Girouard, Carol Goodden, Suzanne Harris, Jene Highstein, Bernard Kirschenbaun, Richard Landry, and Richard Nonas, as well as the architecturally trained artist, Gordon Matta Clark (1943-1978). Their name, a mixture of 'anarchy' and 'architecture', was conceived in informal conversation, one of the main ways through which the group collaborated. In 1974 they produced an exhibition of the same name, which encapsulated their critique of the modernist impulses of contemporary culture within which architecture was conceived as a symbol for that culture's worst excesses and drawbacks. Anarchitecture were very critical of the stasis in cultural attitudes and what Richard Nonas called the 'hard shell', or resistance to change, that architecture epitomised. All contributions to the show were anonymous and followed an agreed format to emphasise their collective approach. The central role accorded to architecture was perhaps a reaction to Matta Clark's own experience of architectural education at Cornell University, from where he graduated in 1968. The group as a whole tackled architecture's complicity in capitalist modes of production, using wordplay and found photographs to explore issues related to cities, ways of inhabiting buildings and the role of property.

Separately but concurrently. Matta Clark also carried out the Fake Estates project, buying tiny slivers of unbuildable and inaccessible land, a comment on the American dream of land and ownership, his useless estate having no economic value and existing only on paper. Another project, Food, though not technically a part of Anarchitecture's oeuvre, included many of the same people including Girouard, Goodden and Matta-Clark. Collectively, they set up and ran the restaurant with an open kitchen which became a New York institution. Located in Soho, it operated between 1971-1973, the business supported and sustained a local network of artists, becoming a social and economic hub for the area.

Later, Matta Clark went on to produce his 'building cuts' that further developed ideas of the Anarchitecture group. These were transformations of abandoned buildings, split apart, sliced through and rearranged, commenting once again on society through architecture, touching on the increasing desire for material accumulation, wealth, permanence.

References About

James Attlee, 'Towards Anarchitecture: Gordon Matta-Clark And Le Corbusier', Tate Papers, 2007, [accessed 24 March 2010].

James Attlee and Lisa Le Feuvre, Gordon Matta-Clark: The Space Between (Portland: Nazraeli Press, 2003).

Stephen Walker, 'Gordon Matta-Clark: Drawing on Architecture', Grey Room, 18 (2005), 108-131.

---, Gordon Matta-Clark: Art, Architecture and the Attack on Modernism (London: I B Tauris & Co Ltd, 2009).

'Gordon Matta-Clark Archive', Canadian Centre for Architecture, [accessed 24 March 2010].


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