Box City stamp

Box City

Part of the museum's mandate is to examine the conditions under which individual works are accepted as art, or are excluded from that field. By extension, it also examines the process by which works cease to exist as art. With this in mind, the museum set up a virtual graveyard cum reliquary for unwanted art in 1995 called Box City. Currently, the only active area within Box City is the Potter's Field; an older, related project is Smothered Art.

Potter's Field
Potter's Field is a free burial ground for art that is too impoverished, friendless, or 'worthless' to be entombed in a museum, including both original works and fakes of all kinds. It is so named because, like the traditional potter's field, it serves as a public burial place for the poor, the unknown, and the prohibited. The Potter's Field also serves as a conceptual model for real-world burial grounds that could be established to respectfully dispose of the 99.99% of all artworks that never make it into a permanent gallery.

Potter's Field
Research findings: Shortly after the Potter's Field site was set up, attendants discovered that decomposition of art does not occur in a straightforward way. Several works that were dug up for reburial due to partial collapse of the underlying strata were found to have migrated from their original positions. Moreover, it appears that they had been cannibalizing or colonizing one another. Museum researchers now speculate that art has strongly viral properties and is probably not an aesthetic form at all.

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Above: Sequential PGI images of a deep layer of the Potter's Field, ca. 2.5m underground. Taken over the course of 18 months, these strata show evidence of advanced decomposition. All views are color-enhanced with a focal depth of approx. 2.5 inches.

box city pic

Smothered Art (1991)
Artists often face the necessity of disposing of old works, especially those whose monetary value has sunk to zero. Too often, artists put off the task because it is a tedious, difficult, and heart-rending job. However, it is possible to destroy, mutilate, and otherwise do away with art by a variety of methods that relieve the task of its monotony. With this in mind, the museum created the 21 Smothered Art cards with widely various ways to dispose of art, including canning, mulching, skinning, and drowning. When the instructions are carried out carefully, they may even result in a new and quite different artwork. Each product of this recycling can be seen as an abject monument to the original "smothered" artwork now obscured within the new work.