Jean Tinguely


Jean Tinguely met en scène Étude pour une fin du monde nº 2 (1962), dans le désert du sud-ouest des États-Unis. Un ensemble autodestructeur de pièces sculpturales composées de détritus collectés dans une décharge à proximité de Las Vegas. Brinkley déclare qu’il s’agissait de « la plus grande réunion de journalistes depuis les premiers essais atomiques, ici, il y a quinze ans ».

Kim Stringfellow, The End of the World, September 2014

The appropriation of a playa for staging artist interventions and performative actions is known primarily through the works of the 1960s Earthworks artists. However, Swiss painter/kinetic sculptor Jean Tinguely was the first artist to stage a site-specific artwork at a playa in the American Southwest. Study for an End of the World No. 2 (1962) was a self-destructing array of sculptural pieces comprised of mostly found detritus collected from a nearby Las Vegas landfill. The project was originally commissioned for NBC’s David Brinkley’s Journal as a nationally televised news feature about Tinguely’s work. Tinguely aptly chose Jean Dry Lake for the location of the event, about fifty-five miles south of Las Vegas. This well-publicized event was performed for an audience that included LIFE magazine, The Saturday Evening Post and other regional and national press entities. Brinkley commented in the program that it “was the biggest collection of reporters since they had the atomic bomb tests out here fifteen years ago.”

Tinguely and his partner/assistant Niki de Saint Phalle—herself a budding art star known at the time for “painting” with a .22 rifle—actually assembled the “plastic bombs” necessary to blow up the sculptures in their Flamingo Hotel room located on the Strip. Tinguely built the sculptural elements over four days within the hotel/casino’s provided parking lot, specially cordoned off for him to work in privacy. The whole shebang was driven out to the playa in a motley caravan on March 21, 1962, set up on the lakebed in a ramshackle configuration with multiple cables and wires leading to the makeshift control booth. After a few unexpected delays, the entire piece was blown up in about an hour.

The End of the World, By Kim Stringfellow | September 2014

The End of the World