Les Levine nous parle de l’œuvre de son ami Gordon Matta-Clark

Les Levine, artiste fondateur du concept “media art”, ami proche de Gordon Matta-Clark, nous accorde une interview à la Galerie nationale du Jeu de Paume  à l’occasion de l’exposition Gordon Matta-Clark : Anarchitecte.

L’entretien filmé, disponible sur You Tube (lien ci-dessous), a été réalisé sous la direction de Danielle C. March, docteur en histoire de l’art (thèse sur Les Levineet Stéphane Courarie-Delage, architecte co-fondateur de dust-distiller.com, et assistés de Fabrice Bothereaudocteur en philosophie et critique d’art




Dans le Jardin des Tuileries, quelques instants avant la visite de l’exposition et de l’interview filmée, Les Levine nous parle de Gordon Matta-Clark en présence de son épouse Catherine Levine et de leur fille Nora. 

En VO dans le texte.

 Graffiti: Linda 1973 Gordon Matta-Clark Courtesy The Estate of Gordon Matta-Clark et David Zwirner, New York / Londres / Hong Kong. © 2018 The Estate of Gordon Matta-Clark / ADAGP, Paris

Graffiti: Linda
Gordon Matta-Clark
Courtesy The Estate of Gordon Matta-Clark et David Zwirner, New York / Londres / Hong Kong. © 2018 The Estate of Gordon Matta-Clark / ADAGP, Paris

Danielle C. March (D.C.M.): You have met Gordon Matta-Clark in 1969 at the “Earth Art” exhibition organized by your friend Willoughby Sharp.Today what do you think about Gordon’s work, the cuttings, the photographs and the graffiti?

Les Levine (L.L.): The main thought I had about Gordons work is that it is a form of vandalism also if you think about it, you know, it is interesting graffiti. Graffiti is also a form of vandalism, you know, and its kind of like a form of “ghetto media” in a sense that it is not sort of like “main stream media” but it is an attempt to sort of represent ideas in a certain kind of way. So its a certain kind of “low level media” and the thing about it is that while thats representing these ideasI think its entirely stupid what people think about graffitiin that day. They view it aesthetically where it has no aesthetic meaning whatever.

Fabrice Bothereau (F.B.): It has become very hype!

L.L.: Yes,because in particularly Europeans have this idea ofyou knowthe exotic nature of “the other”, the one that is not like them, so to speak. And the exotic nature of the expression of a form of art that is not in the main stream of art. Soyou know from that point of viewit seems as though it’s interestingbut in reality itmain thrust is aggressiveness, itmain thrust is that it wants to destroy the status quo of the normal idea. But it never really makes it as art in my opinion, it never really succeeds as art. If anythingit succeeds as a kind of anarchistic gesture. A gesture against the rules of society. Instead of going through the normal thing that people go through, they go to school, they learn how to developed, they get a job, they become a professionalwhat have you. They want this (Les Levine finger snapping!) without any effort. They want it immediately with no effort. They dont feel that its reasonable for society to do all the things that society doesbut they never stopped to think that people put a lot of effort into all this. They didnt get it for nothing but graffiti is wanted for nothing. They want to resolved without putting the effort in. And in actual facta major part of it isthat it is a form of destruction. Its a form of damaging the culture that those educated to produce the culture have produced. So its like I say, “piss on your culture”, you know, its like I want to say that your culture doesnt work for me. But I am not willing to put any effort into create a real alternative to your culture. Im just going to try to cover it over with my name. Most of the graffiti things are what we call tags which means their name and so I just gonna put my name on the top of your thing and destroy your thing and try to make it my thingand I dont know. One time, many years ago in CanadaI went to give a lecture in a school and before I went to give a lecture in the school, they told me, this is a free school, anybody can do anything they want in the school. So I went on the elevator and on the elevator it was all this waste out of control expressions. And I went to the sixth floor, I gave my lecture, I came down, and on the elevator, it was completely changed, not the same thing at all. And so that gave me the impression thatfine, if you want that level of freedom, then you know, by nature, theres going be an enormous amount of fatalities involved, because that degree of freedom doesnt allow for the normal social control that one has over things, you know, you dont just walk up to somebody and decide to do something out of place. So in a certain kind of way even though, you know, I think that Gordon was probably fascinated by the idea of people doing things that they weren’t suppose to do. And you know,as much as Stéphane thinks, that it makesome contributions to architectureI dont. And the raison I dont think it makes any contribution to architecture is, you knowthe painter Turner, he studied as an architect, but he didnt become an architect, he became a painter, O.K. Gordon studied as an architect but he never became an architect, O.K. And so these cuts in buildings he did, to me its like cutting-up architecture. Its like saying I couldnt make it as architect so I’m going to cut-up architecture, you know. Its kind of like at a certain level a kind of spoilbraprankism, you know. They wouldnt let me become an architectso screw architecture, you know. Im gonna cut it up. Thats the feeling I have about. I dont see where there is any contribution to architecture involved. I dont see it. If there isI would be happy for you to explain it to mebecause I dont see it.

Sthéphane Courarie-Delage (S.C.D.): I think some architecthave been influenceby Gordon Matta-Clark in the way that… you will see for instance, it’s not a real reproduction of Gordon Matta-Clarks ideasbut in the renovation of the building of the Jeu de Paume there is a kind of cut in the floorIt used to be the Jeu de Paume, it’s the ancestor of tennis playing. So it was a hole, and the architects filled up the hole with a floor. There were also politics that came there. So architects interpreted those cuts not as a revolution but as a way not to be in the convention of the architecture. So they broke their buildings like we spoke about Arquitectonica.

L.L.: No, it’s not the same. Actually, thats a terrible reading of Arquitectonica. I’m now going to have to put my “architecture head” on, which is that Arquitectonica is more inuenced by Renaissance, roman architecturethan they are by Gordon Matta-Clark. Look at Arquitectonica where they have these kinds of spacesthey go through from one side of the building to the other. This is like roman architecture, this is like Renaissance architecture.


Gordon Matta-Clark découpant au chalumeau son Graffiti Truck, vers 1973 Photographe inconnu Courtesy The Estate of Gordon Matta-Clark et David Zwirner, New York / Londres / Hong Kong. © 2018 The Estate of Gordon Matta-Clark / ADAGP, Paris

S.C.D.: Such people like Daniel Liebeskind or Peter Eisenman or all the deconstructivists have been inuenced by the cuttings. Also the way buildings propose an other architecture like Coop Himmelb(l)au, they have a lot of light coming in, they reproduce the cuttings in a new architecture.

L.L.: I dont think so.The fact that somebody has cut between one floorand another… Actually in the building which I live in, in New York, there is a cut between one floor and the other. But I would guarantee you that the person who did it never heard of Gordon Matta-Clark.

S.C.D.: There are some floorcuttings not the same as Gordon has donebut for instance the house of Frank Gehry in Los Angeles. He has split different spacesafter having the knowledge of Gordon Matta-Clark. This is what is commonly said.

L.L.: I prefer to see these works not in terms of some kind of concept of architecture history or art history in which the proponents of that kind of activity always try to make connections between one thing and an othereven if there is no connection. They always try to do that because that validates their position in life. However, from my point of view, I only want to see whats there. I dont want to impose anything. What is there, is a dark room, in which a hole has been cut, in which light comes in, O.K. This is to me is like a camera. I already told you that. This is what a camera does, you open the aperture a little bit and light comes in. And if you look at Gordons photographs, they are for more sophisticated than any architecture idea that he has. The photographs are the art, in my opinion. The activity that a person may do,to make a photograph, in other words, he may put two oranges and an apple on a table and then take a photograph. I mean being childish here at a certain level,but whateverthe person may do to make the photograph is not the art. Its the photograph, O.K. Or he may say to a man standing next to this building here and I take the photograph with a certain light that is now hiding you because youre next to the building. And in the case of Gordon, those photographs,those cuts all turn these buildings into pinhole cameras, O.K. I’m not imagining this, this is what you can see. If as example, you will look at those photographs where he has cut these holes in them and there would be no light there, there would be no such thing as light coming in.

S.C.D.: You mean if its night for instance.

L.L.: Yes, if its night. Or, I didnt exactly mean that but (laugh) if it would not been letting light in, the entire meaning of the thing would be changed. So the meaning of the thing is letting light in”.

S.C.D.: I know a photographer who used the pavilion of Mies van der Rohe in Barcelona as a camera obscura. So he closed all the building and made a little hole like this and put a real paper like you make a photo from a slide. So he made real paper photographs and opened it and printed it. So he used the building as a real camera obscura and the result was quite interesting and it worked also. When you spoke about the pinhole camera, the way of making this art, it reminds me this example.

L.L.: Every thing reminds you of something else. Why not just stay on the thing that we are dealing with,why breminded of something else?

S.C.D.: The question that I am asking is, how Gordon Matta-Clark is influencing so much the architects, can you have an answer?

L.L.: I dont agree with that.

S.: No, not influence, sorry, its not the word. They are fascinated by his art.

L.L.: Oh, theyre fascinated, sure. The reason theyre fascinated from my point of view isbecause hes very critical of architecturethats the main thrust of his work. Not thats a contribution to architecturebut its a serious criticism of architecture. And if you know architects, you know they love to be criticizedI mean, do you remember ANALYZE LOVERS

(Les Levine, Analyze Lovers : The Story of Vincent1990, installation20 interviews filmées, 13 billboardsmusique Michael Galasso. Cette œuvre , Centraal Museum, Utrecht, 1990.)

D.C.M.: Sure.


Conical Intersect 1975 Gordon Matta-Clark Courtesy The Estate of Gordon Matta-Clark et David Zwirner, New York / Londres / Hong Kong. © 2018 The Estate of Gordon Matta-Clark / ADAGP, Paris

S.C.D.: I think the idea of CONICAL INTERSECTION, next to Beaubourg in 1975, was to bring an other view on the city and to treat light in a different way than the architect hadone it. So, I think it is very critical about architecture in this way, it breaks the conventional rules of the architecture with openings, square openings and slab and the walls and little cubewhere you liveso, it was really against this way of doing, especially in this period that it was critical.

L.L.: The main thrust of it is, and we can know thatnot by our sort of like “dream like fantasies of connecting” one thing with the otherthe shoelace with the hair or whatever, you know. We can know that by the fact that he is interested in graffiti.

S.C.D.: You are making a relation with graffiti?

L.L. : No, I am telling you that the main point is to be anarchistic. The main point is to be against the system, the main point is to associate yourself with those things that are in some way against the norm of society.

F.B.: You said, may be it was you, about the fact that you thought that Gordon Matta-Clark was an abandoned child, yeah, and since yesterday I have seen a lot of documents about Gordon Matta-Clark and books at the Jeu de Paumeand so, may be I am confuseabout who saywhat now today, but is it you who said, you can see the house with the cuts in like the figure of the mother ?

L.L: No, I didn’t say that. I did say however in the catalog where the show was at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago which was done shortly after his deathI did say that he was an abandoned child and that he was interested in those things which where abandoned. And I didnt say it was about the mother. I did mentioned that the cuts etc and so far are metaphoric for a female sex organs.

F.B.: Female sex organs.

L.L: Yes, I did say that.

F.B.: So, its like the same thing of it ?

L.L: No, it’s not the same thing. One doesnt always associate the female sex organs with the mother.

F.B.: Right, right, sure. But in this case I see it.

L.L: I dont see that other people see it that way. I am saying I see it that way. 

F.B.: Yeah.

L.L: In the same way as you can see, I forget the Italian artistwho cuts the canvas.

D.C.M.: Fontana.

L.L.: Fontana. I mean, you, its not sort of like a realistic sort of representation, its more sort of psychological metaphor, you know, as to why somebody does that, you know. Its not that it gives you any sort of exact explanation of what it is. Its more that it brings you into a realm of kind of thoughtfulness in that area. Thats all, you know. You cant sort of look at it and say thats that.


Gordon Matta-Clark travaillant à Conical Intersect Rue Beaubourg, octobre 1975 Marc Petitjean © Marc Petitjean

F.B.: Sure, right.

L.L.: So, but, the thing is that if you think about where this exhibition came fromThe Bronx Museum. Now, The Bronx Museum, you know, unless you are prepared to believe that museums have disintegrated into community center activities, The Bronx Museum is not a real museum, O.K. because what The Bronx Museum is, is a really a center that deals with various activities what in the community that it becomes a way ofin a sense, sort of trying to vandalize some kind of culture activities withinin some kind of semi depressed sort of area. So the issues that are existedlets sayin art history, in modernism, postmodernism, or anything like that dont exist. The issues that do exist in that situation are issues of what kind of thingcan we do toin some wayvandalize the community. So in a senseThe Bronx Museum per se is a sort of a conceptual museum and that its not a real museum in the sense of what we normally would think like the Louvre which houses great works of art from any period in timewhat have you, its not a museum of that nature. And the word museum is a misnomer because its really an extended community center and,you know,a lot of Gordons work is involved with that kind of concept.

S.C.D.: When you say its not a real museum, is it a critic of this museum or is it a way of saying its a new way of making a museumWhat do you mean byit’s not a real museum?

L.L.: I mean its, maybe “real” is a bad word. Its not a museum in the conventional sense of a museum, O.K. Its not like The Museum of Modern Art, its not like The New Museum, its not like The Whitney Museum, its not like those museums which essentially are an extension of the development ofart history in terms of here,in The Bronx Museum art history doesnt count for nothing.

S.C.D.: I hear a kind of a critic.

L.L.: Oh, oh, you hear a critic? Youre asking an artist a question, didnt you expect a critical answer? No, the point I am trying to make to you is, that there are areas now which are post-postmodernismin other words postmodernism open up the doors for what I call “Community Center Museums” and so the normal criteria that exist in, lets call it an “average museum” because its normal seems like lower word for you, an “average museum” dont exist there, O.K. I went to Gordon Matta-Clark’s exhibition at The Bronx Museum,and there where several people who get up and spoke, not one of them spoke about Gordons work, not one of themEvery one of them, most of them were politiciansspoke about how theyre supporting the community etc and so far. I dont know if that gives you a better idea of what I think about this museum or this place.

S.C.D.: Yes, its clear to me.

L.L.: But I am sure that other people think that I am critical and I am sure that people would say this person would never be allowed to show in this museum” and I will say, thankGod”.

F.B.: Maybe it doesnt matter the name of it?

L.L.: It does matter, its the dissipation of art.

F.B.: Oh yeah, you think?

L.L.: Yes, because what it is in the long run isthe Government taking over art and deciding that it has a use for them, O.K. Thats the part of itI don’t like.

F.B.: Oh, yes.

L.L.: I dont mind what ever else theyre doing thereor some if these artists are unknown and will become known or whatever. I dont care about all that. What I care aboutis the fact that the politicians now feel that they can use these kinds of institutions as an attachment to their own development in some way. And I dont thinkin a certain kind of waythat if really permits the possibility of what art is supposed to do. There have always been community centers and they attempt to be in places which are underprivileged at some level, you know. You don’t find community centers on Park Avenue as example, you know.

Relecture de l’Anglais : Hélène Dufour-O’Sullivan

Gordon Matta-Clark, Anarchitecte, Musée du Jeu de Paume, jusqu’au 23 septembre 2018.

GMC cutting the Grafitti Truck, 1973

Gordon Matta-Clark découpant au chalumeau son Graffiti Truck, vers 1973 Photographe inconnu Courtesy The Estate of Gordon Matta-Clark et David Zwirner, New York / Londres / Hong Kong. © 2018 The Estate of Gordon Matta-Clark / ADAGP, Paris