Caseros Prison Demolition Project - 16 Tons

Caseros Prison Demolition Project - 16 Tons

The Caseros Prison Demolition Project -- 80,000 Tons, which contains "16 Tons" and "Aparecidos" is the work of artist Seth Wulsin. It uses the defunct Caseros Prison of Buenos Aires, Argentina and its demolition as raw materials.

"Aparecido" is the past participle for the Spanish verb "aparecer" - to appear. Its second meaning is apparition or ghost.

"Sixteen Tons", the name of a popular song written in the late 1940s, referred to the amount of coal a miner was expected to load in a day, but in this context may refer to the amount of glass broken out through the installation, or de-installation, process.

80,000 tons is the approximate weight of the entire building, and the debris that the demolition produces.

The demolition

On a basic level, the demolition of the prison, contracted out by the city government of Buenos Aires to the Argentine military, is the seed for the artwork. The building was slated for demolition in 2001, but the process has been subject to various legal, environmental and bureaucratic roadblocks. The original plan was to implode the building in three steps. But the implosion was stopped at the last minute by a group of neighbors concerned about the possibility of damaging environmental effects, including asbestos poisoning and the possibility of driving millions of rats out of the tunnels they occupy underneath the prison. Caseros is currently being demolished by mechanical means floor by floor from the top down. "I had all these ideas for large-scale work, but couldn't find anybody to fund my projects," says Wulsin. "Then I realized if I could just redirect a pre-existing budget, I could potentially do something at its rightful scale without ever having to raise the money."citequote The cost of demolishing the prison, and thus the budget for the artwork is estimated at somewhere between one and three million dollars.

According to an early press release on the project, "The focus that the art work activates opens forward in time through the future of the place, backward in time through the history of the place, and laterally through its present. But it really engages more than a three-dimensional coordinate system as it functions through the consciousness of the human observer. Thus, in some sense, anything that happens there, ever, now happens through the context of the art work. The artwork opens to function on every magnitude of human activity and consciousness in relation to the place."citequote

The grids

The window grids on the north end of the former prison provide the locus and point of entry for the work. Each grid is approximately convert|17|ft|m tall and convert|9|ft|m wide. Breaking out certain windows, the artist has created faces in each of the 48 outer grids on the building. Each grid consists of 11 x 19 (209) circular semi-opaque windows, eight inches (203 mm) in diameter. The windows that remain reflect the light of the sky, the sun and the moon, producing images from certain angles that are completely a function of space and light -- the dark interior space of the prison, and the light shining through the optically reflective space of the remaining windows.

The pictorial space of each image is directed at different points on the ground where the sun reflecting in the windows is visible. The viewing angles change throughout the year as the sun's elevation in the sky changes.

In addition to the 48 outer window grids, there are also 48 grids facing inward, directly opposite the outer grids. They don't reflect the light of the sun from any possible viewing angles on the street, but the artist has worked with them as well.

The window grids were already in various stages of decomposition when Wulsin found the building, with almost a third of the total number of windows already broken out by inmates during various prison riots when the jail was still in use.

The cycle of appearance and disappearance that takes place according to the daily, monthly and yearly lunar and solar cycles, and the position of the potential viewer is underscored at a larger magnitude by the demolition process, which consists in the removal of the building from the top down, floor by floor. The demolition is expected to last until March 2008.

After discovering the prison in January 2006, while exploring the neighborhood of Parque Patricios, where he'd recently moved from New York, Wulsin spent four months navigating the bureaucracies of the national and city governments of Argentina and Buenos Aires, respectively, to gain authorization to enter the building and carry out the onsite work. The resolution authorizing the project was finally signed on Friday, June 16 (Bloomsday), 2006 by Minister of Public Works of the city of Buenos Aires, Juan Schiavi. The security tarp made by Wulsin to direct broken glass back inside the building was blue and white (the colors of the Argentine flag), and painted with the hot air balloon logo of the local Parque Patricios soccer team Huracan. "The Huracan banner is as important to the content of the piece as anything else", says Wulsin. "The combination of the team name Huracan with the logo of the hot-air balloon could be one of the most successful unintentional works of 20th century art."citequote The five weeks of onsite work were completed on Marcel Duchamp's birthday, July 28. But the project itself is ongoing through the entire demolition process of the building.


ee also

*Caseros Prison

External links

* [ 'City government authorization for the project']
* [ Buenos Aires City government description]
* [ 'The Guards of the Mafia'] , "Pagina 12"
* [ 'Cement Hell'] , "30 Noticias"
* [ 'The Cruel Ones and the Speculators'] , Osvaldo Bayer
* [ 'Persons deprived of their liberty'] , Center for Legal and Social Studies - PDF
* [ 'Light in the Darkness'] , "Pagina 12"
* [ 'Caseros, a memory of state horror'] , "Pagina 12"
* [ 'La maravilla artística de Buenos Aires - The artistic wonder of Buenos Aires'] , "Blog Parque Patricios"
* [ 'Ultimos días de las caras de Seth Wulsin - Last days of Seth Wulsin´s faces'] "Blog Parque Patricios"
* [ Fotolog]
* [ With a Hammer, Finding Ghosts In the Glass, New York Times (5 Aug. 2007)]
* [ Putting a human face on an Argentine prison's history, International Herald Tribune (7 Aug. 2007)]
* [ Skrackens Arkitektur]

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Caseros Prison — View of the old prison and the 1970s addition, June 2006 Southwestern view, April 2006 …   Wikipedia

  • Seth Wulsin — (born April 15, 1981) was born in Spring Valley, New York. He studied briefly at Yale University, before withdrawing to play music with friend and guitarist Solomon Silber. [ [… …   Wikipedia

  • Public art — The term public art properly refers to works of art in any media that have been planned and executed with the specific intention of being sited or staged in the physical public domain, usually outside and accessible to all. The term is especially …   Wikipedia

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