As an art educator, I spend a lot of time thinking about and planning for acts of creation. And, in my personal life, my family and I spend a lot of time making stuff. But every once in awhile, it’s nice to break things too. It gives us a sense of power over the material world around us that is not so different from bringing things into being. Watch any small child around a stack of blocks and you’ll understand.
Sometimes, when we tear something down, we make way for something new. Such was the message of Ai Weiwei’s Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn (1995) and Robert Raushenberg’s Erased deKooning (1953). These were conceptual works, making way for new ways of thinking and creating. Sometimes it’s not that heady.
I spent an hour and a half this morning tearing up an old bathroom floor. It felt wonderful. I only planned to take out the threshold today, just enough to make room for work to be done outside the doorway, but once I got started, I had to keep going. When I was a teenager I loved the band Guns and Roses. I guess part of me still has an Appetite for Destruction. I was feeling the Flow.
As I worked, I thought about the history of the space I was in; the layers of linoleum, wood, and glue stacked on top of one another. I thought about who put those down and how excited they must have been to have something new. I imagined what the bathroom would look like once we remodeled it. But most of all, I thought about how powerful I felt wielding a crow bar and cat’s paw and how much different the world might be if more women learned to use them; if we had the opportunity to tear things apart once in awhile, rather than always being in charge of nurturing and raising them up. What new possibilities might we imagine?