Gordon Matta-Clark and the Wall Sandwich

Perhaps because I don’t speak French, I’ve never warmed to Duchamp’s endless punning on cocks and vaginas. His wife’s godson Gordon Matta-Clark however, had an equally dry yet less lubricious wit, evident in the idea of naming a slice of a restaurant a sandwich.

I find myself fascinated by the idea of Matta-Clark cutting himself out a slice of the wall during the development of Food in 1971 and calling it a ‘wall sandwich’. This event is now fifty years ago. A half-century has passed since the artist-run Soho eatery opened – the anniversary is in September. The area, and indeed the whole art scene, have changed beyond recognition. I wonder what he would say about the changes, were he alive today. His 78th birthday would have been the 22nd of June.

This gesture has set me thinking about how artists went about doing things then and now. In the account below I will try to refrain from mythologising and romanticising the past. In a way though, it cannot be helped. Simply by repeating the bare facts of past events one amplifies them. Writing third-hand, as I am doing, means I will inevitably make mistakes and describe event inaccurately. Furthermore, I do have a romantic take on these events, occurring as they did when I was a mere toddler. I am sure artists in their mid-twenties have much the same feelings about the shenanigans of the mid-nineties in Hoxton Square and Old Street – now also changed beyond recognition from the more carefree (and cheaper) places they were back then. Money and success ruined that particular scene, much like it did to the mid-seventies New York art scene. But I am getting ahead of myself.

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