Michael Landy, Gameboy drawing from Breakdown
I’ve written about Michael Landy’s Break Down here before, but at the time I focused firmly on the event and the photographic documentation. Breakdown, an Artangel commission that saw Landy destroy all his possessions with the help of a team of overall-clad operatives and a production line style ‘disposal facilty’ set up in the former C&A store on Oxford Street, came back to mind for a few reasons. Mainly, I’ve been trying to reduce the clutter levels in my house and while there’s a long way to go I’ve become pretty familiar with the local charity shops and reacquainted myself with stuff that’s long been lurking in what can only reasonably be described as the junk room. While I’m probably worse than most people at getting round to dumping the clutter, I think many of us do attach memories to things in a way that can make it hard to acknowledge our lack of practical need for objects that may hold sentimental value, however slight.
Koala bear slippers
While the power of Break Down lay in recognising both the liberating and terrifying aspects of destroying all one’s possessions, the impact of the drawings, made in preparation for the project, lies in the narratives – both touching and funny – Landy attaches to them. The drawings are effectively Landy’s memory bank. From the preposterous – but individually named – koala slippers, remembered as a gift but acknowledged as scarcely used, to the moving story of his father’s sheepskin jacket – as far as I recall, the last thing to be broken down, and clearly of huge significance in the Landy’s life – with a drawing and a few notes encapsulating the hardship and pain at the heart of the artist’s family following his father’s debilitating accident.
Alone, the drawings would’t work. Without the drawings the stories would be much less interesting. It’s the combination of the handwritten text and drawings that makes this work so compelling. The stories show just how much Landy was sacrificing by making Break Down; the drawings feel both like a labour of love and painfully inadequate as a means of recording what is being yielded up the line of destruction.