Shredding as Art?

As an art dealer, I try to stay in tune with the trends. While my preference is for the art and artifacts of Southeast Asia, particularly Nepal, I also pay attention to what is happening in the rest of the world. Sometimes I am totally shocked by what I see. Take the self-destrusting Banksy painting, Girl with Red Balloon – a hoax or a work of genius. Is this a commentary on the castoff nature of modern life and the disposability of precious commodities? But who is the object of ridicule here? The artist who doesn’t value his own work, the auction house that hoped for a killing, or the buyer who has lost over a million?

Not sure, but it is an interesting proposition I am thinking about shredding as art. Debris as art has a long history, particularly in mid-twentieth century Europe (Italy, Germany and France). Arts love to use trashed items as part of assemblages and collages. They would burn holes in paintings and rip and tear them to shreds. But the work itself remained. Nowadays, anyone with a Shredder Lab can produce a novel kind of material with which to make art. Like the old song, anything goes. Or if you have a conceptual bent, you can call the act of shredding itself the artwork. The aesthetic experience is in the observation. Woe be those dealers and money grubbers who want to save the bits and pieces as a residue to behold. It wasn’t meant to be.

Who knows what Banksy intended? Was he just watching and waiting in the wings, hoping for a good laugh. He is a huckster or a true purveyor of the modern spirit. Nothing lasts anymore, certainly not our moral values. Works of art have always had a tradition of longevity and great pleasure has been gained over centuries in collecting them for status or décor. Do we hang the empty Banksy frame on the museum wall? And most of all, how and when did Banksy put an internal shredder inside his 2006 painting?

As I stare at my little home office shredder, these thoughts run through my head. I am used to destroying the evidence of my life—each paper document one at a time. This is my work of autobiographical art. Would anyone care if it all ends up in the trash can in the alley, or a bag in my garage? What defines an artist? The desire to make a statement in any medium: even paper shreds? So many questions to ask. If the Banksy fiasco is causing all this reflection, this perhaps is part of its message to the artworld. But I am getting too profound. The auction house horror might be akin to losing money in a stock market crash: easy come, easy go. It is as simple as that. Money, money, money makes the world go round (Cabaret, 2002).