Emma Geliot's picture

Smash It Up - Mr and Mrs Clark

Performance duo Mr and Mrs Clark watched in dismay as the city where they live began demolishing its cultural heritage. Smash It Up developed from an impetus to turn something negative into a riotous series of performances that are the antithesis of civic cultural vandalism. Gareth Clark talks about the art of destroying to make something new

If more artists were like Gustav Metzger there might not be any art left and if there were, it certainly wouldn t be exhibited in art galleries. Metzger s Auto Destructive art was a reflection of the violence we do to the world and to each other. Metzger was not alone in embracing destruction and more contemporary artists like Michael Landy have literally destroyed everything they own. It was the response to the demolition of a piece of popular public art, in Newport, South Wales, that prompted us to question the value of destruction in our society. The Chartist Mural, which proudly depicted the events of 1839, not only immortalised those that fell on that day it also educated those that did not know of the march for equality. The decision to demolish it by a council unable to meet the quoted200,000 to move it was mirrored by their desire for a developer to build a shopping centre that required the same local authority to find90 million and subsequently sponsor the first phase of the development project.


Smash It Up - Mr and Mrs Clark

This seemed to indicate just how little art, and culture for that matter, was considered compared to the potential retail opportunities the development offered. Once the demolition of the mural started the local anger gave rise to what appeared to be the unjust handling of Kenneth Budd s iconic mural depiction. The physical destruction of the mural created a call to arms, to protest and to the subsequent lobbying of the council, an action that had appeared obsolete in recent years. Now the people were united and it seemed to take a hand full of high visual be-suited individuals with sledgehammers to stir the hornet s nest.

It was the act of destruction that interested us most: The reaction, the outrage and the fury. Working with Andre Stitt we began to develop ideas that would offer a performance response to the events described thus far. However there was more to consider. Not only had the mural been destroyed, the public land that it once occupied had now became private property. The erosion of freedom seemed to be all but forgotten until we tried to do anything in that space other than shop. The loss of public space indicated a more sinister destruction of expression. We visited other areas that operate as privately run enterprises. After just six minutes, guards in Cwmbran approached us. Their instruction from the centre management was that we appeared to be doing nothing. This was our first foray into a campaign of action and we simply stood still in the shopping centre and attempted to imagine a better place.

Smash It Up - Mr and Mrs Clark

The campaign actions have since been many and varied and attracted the attention of the public and local law enforcement. During a walk to a targeted site for a short performance, armed police detained us for 30 minutes while they attempted to establish our credentials. Their task was hampered by our vow of silence. Each action has its score and this particular score was found on my person and read in its entirety over a short wave radio, to what one supposes was HQ. The score referenced the action and other artists and historical precedents.

Smash It Up  - Mr an Mrs Clark

Smash It Up is a theatre show of sorts that attempts to stir the viewer into action. The show incorporates a series of destructive acts with a plotted history of ethnic and religious cleansing. In turn the show presents a series of short films that are created through destroyed fragments of other films. The goal is to offer an olive branch to those feeling dis-empowered, to those seeking a creative response, a response that mirrors some of the madness we seem surrounded by.


Smash It Up will be at Chapter arts centre 17] 20/23 27 February 2016 The show then tours in early MarchAll dates are here

All images courtesy of Mr and Mrs Clark You can read Dino Rovaretti's review of Smash It Up from November 2014 here