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Friday, September 9, 2011

Yes, It's the United States Made of 100,000 Matches

Posted by Sarah Mirk on Fri, Sep 9, 2011 at 11:15 AM

I'm gonna go ahead and say that my favorite piece from TBA On Sight is US Burnt/Unburnt, a map of the United States French artist duo Claire Fontaine constructed from 100,000 matches.

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It's structurally amazing—those perfectly placed matches are mind-blogging—but also provokes an immediate reaction. I heard a couple people walk into the room, stare at the piece for a bit, and then utter some variation of, "What if it bursts into flame?" That was my first thought, too, and I like the way the piece plays with potential energy and expectation. It's so stagnant and yet everyone's a little tense waiting for that big disaster moment. Everyone is standing there thinking it's such a pretty, well-made sculpture... but in the back of our brains is a voice chanting, "Burn, baby, burn!"

And, oh thank God, you can actually watch that desired finale in the duo's matchstick recreation of France. Torch it!

The US piece won't actually be set aflame because, well, we have laws against that sort of thing and the fire marshal wouldn't approve it. But TBA public relations guru Patrick Leonard sends along these thoughts on the unburnt US from the artists:

"The piece is more alive and it has more potential when it is unburnt, because it is both: an actual danger in the space and a temptation for the viewer. It is something in an unstable state that can change at any moment. Once it's burnt it's very pictoral; it is somehow finished and it transforms the whole exhibition space into a support for the traces of its combustion, that are both a sculpture and a painting. The burning is very dramatic, but the aftermath has a feeling of being consumed and rather tragic."

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