Building an Art Community From the Ashes of Destructivism

Raphael Montañez Ortiz, “Henny Penny Piano Destruction” (1966-98), destroyed piano. The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, gift of the artist (all photos Ela Bittencourt/Hyperallergic)

When it comes to self-destructive games, the artists loosely grouped around the 1960s movement Destructivism pulled no punches. At the 1966 Destruction in Art Symposium (DIAS) in London, for example, Yoko Ono performed her legendary “Cut Piece,” in which the audience could cut off her clothes with scissors; police repeatedly intervened in DIAS, citing complaints of explosions, animal sacrifice, and other scandalizing acts; and prizes went to artists injured in happenings — one with an axe, another from a fall while staging a piece, yet another when a bomb prematurely exploded in his hand.

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