Michael Landy


Break Down (2001)

In February the artist Michael Landy went against consumerist society by gathering all of his possessions to begin a process of destroying all of them. In an unused retail store in London, Oxford Street he gathered together all 7,227 of his belongings and started what could be seen as a reverse of a manufacturing system.

Over two weeks the public were free to walk into a space which would be expected to be a store only to be faced with yellow trays going around a conveyor belt. Around these machines, what could be called, factory workers were removing the trays and beginning the dismantling of the objects by smashing, shedding and pulverising the item until it was back to its basic material.

The artist destroyed everything from his passport, birth certificate, works of art ( including Tracy Emin and Damien Hirst), his car and list continuous. Suddenly the artist was free from the burdens of consumerism and I imagine there was a feeling of lightness of no longer having these possessions weighting him down. However there also must have been a large amount of doubt and also a feeling of scariness. Having removed everything of value, history and memory it must of felt, well like when your hard drive break downs but a hundred times worse.

Once the artist had finished the 2 week installation of destroying the physical objects of his whole life the only thing left was the granulated rubbish. This was not kept to be sold on or exhibited, but sent to either land fill or recycled. A 300 page inventory was the only document created to reference this event. An event which shows how easy it is to destroy everything we cherish and find so important. I wonder every time when viewing this work whether it would make me feel more free, or would the lack of possession and existence make me feel tied down. Do these items, which we collect, for purpose and enjoyment become important for us to create what we would consider a home?


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