While in Manhattan at the Guggenheim last week we stumbled on the work of New York artist William Anastasi. A particular piece of his titled Issue got our gears spinning about the nature of art, architecture and society.

The piece is created by following a simple set of instructions, stated adjacent to the art on the title plaque:

“Score: Draw two vertical lines 4-1/2 inches apart from floor to ceiling on a plaster wall. With chisel and hammer chip the surface away within the lines to a one-quarter inch depth. Pile the debris at the base of the removal in a mound as wide as the strip extending onto the floor at a right angle from the removal.”

Because the instructions can be performed on ordinary drywall and plaster, the piece is easily employed in most galleries, museums, or your living room for that matter. The instructions can be mailed, emailed, faxed, or verbally communicated to nearly any destination on the planet. It can be twittered in 2.3 twits.

Much like architecture, it is the set of instructions that is directly crafted by the artist. Once the instructions are established, a wider range of individuals or groups can execute the final product. Naturally, the more complicated the final product the more supervision, coordination and administration is required from the artist/architect/author. But the Issue piece boils down this relationship to a pure model and invites the question of whether this is art, architecture, demolition, or none of the above.

[Photo courtesy William Anastasi]

We like the piece because it’s more about an idea than a sacred work of art behind glass. We like it because it’s inclusive; involving more people than just the artist. We like it because it’s transparent; all the instructions are right there and you’re free to write them down for yourself (open source art). We like it because it’s free and easily accomplished; if you really want one for yourself you don’t need to go through an art broker or auctioneer, hell you don’t even need to buy a poster. Whether you like this piece or hate it, Issue has a tremendous amount in common with the digital, interconnected, twitter-facebook paradigm of today’s culture. In fact, we’re going to put our necks out there and propose that this dumb strip of chipped drywall is an embodiment of the new idea-based, inclusive, transparent, accessible culture. There you have it. You know what to do with those rotten tomatoes…