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Underground Paris: St. Michel

Gordon Matta-Clark


Gordon Matta-Clark is best known for his “building cuts,” turning buildings into sculptural environments by carving through floors, walls, and ceilings. He dubbed these site-specific transformations “Anarchitecture” (a combination of “anarchy” and “architecture”); they were documented in films and photographs that were subsequently exhibited in galleries, sometimes alongside sections of the cut-out buildings.

In connection with his Super 8mm film Underground Paris (1977), exploring the complex underground spaces of the city, Matta-Clark made a series of photographic works of the same title. These represent another type of cut, this time deep into the ground, where the built environment is contrasted with the city’s many buried stories. In Underground Paris: St. Michel, Matta-Clark photographed the catacombs beneath the center of Paris and created a larger image by combining many smaller photographs, often making visible the edges of the strips of negatives. This montage of several similar-looking images, both color and black and white, refers back to the Super 8mm film, taking a form like a filmstrip. At the same time, the horizontal seams between the images allude to geological layers, just as the work’s extreme vertical format mimics the descending movement necessary to reach these hidden and forgotten burial grounds. The city is visible above, with its roofline and the highlighted silhouette of a church emphasizing the contrast between past and present.
MEDIUM Chromogenic print with tape
DATES 1977
DIMENSIONS frame: 100 1/4 × 22 × 2 1/2 in. (254.6 × 55.9 × 6.4 cm)  (show scale)
CREDIT LINE Gift of Edward A. Bragaline, by exchange
MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
CAPTION Gordon Matta-Clark (American, 1943–1978). Underground Paris: St. Michel, 1977. Chromogenic print with tape, frame: 100 1/4 × 22 × 2 1/2 in. (254.6 × 55.9 × 6.4 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Edward A. Bragaline, by exchange, 1990.108. © artist or artist's estate (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 1990.108.jpg)
IMAGE overall, 1990.108.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph
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RIGHTS STATEMENT © artist or artist's estate
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